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  BLACKLINES

Segregation in the New Millennium
by Earnest Edward Hite
2003-09-01

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The Harvey Milk High School in New Your City has operated for two decades as a small alternative program. Now it's ready to hit the big leagues as the school undergoes a $3 million renovation approved by the New York Board of Education in 2002. Once the work is completed and the ribbon cut, the school house doors open to an estimated 170 students in early September.

Now many are applauding the operation of this school to address the diverse concerns posed by urban gay lesbian bisexual or transgendered youth. America is often viewed as the focal point of new ideas, but this one is dead wrong. This comprehensive high school for GLBT youth strikes at the very heart of discrimination, segregation and the whole issue of the separate but equal doctrine.

The National Association of Colored People spent a good majority of its resources to bring this debate to the Supreme Court and in 1954 in Brown vs. The Topeka Board of Education closed the door on the idea of separate facilities providing quality education. Our public school system provides a vibrant training ground for young girls and boys. The socialization of young people which began at home is continued in the school dynamic offering to young people a diversity of social and economic realities.

The American Psychiatric Association and American Psychology no longer deem homosexuality as a 'deviant' behavior. Those days are gone, and our goal today should be the inclusion and normalization of our children into the public school system. I am mindful that some heterosexual youth are troublesome when it comes to understanding someone with a different sexual orientation, and they are often challenged with anything that does not conform to the heterosexist view that the moral standard in terms of intimate relationships is women and men. In terms of mainstream beliefs, our isolationism is a detriment, not a progressive factor.

If we are truly citizens of this country we must begin to see ourselves as part of the whole not separate. This school smacks of separatism and segregation. So in order to deal with youth who are questioning or have internally identified their orientation, we are offering a secluded safe space away form the real world. I think that is a big mistake. The world awaits our young people and while there is a need for safe harbor, must it be in the context of education?

This school is neither promising nor progressive. Many urban GLBT youth will not reap the rewards of this experiment. They will continue to be assaulted by a system and a national policy that leaves them out. It is a throw back to the days where the majority wanted to keep minority people on the outside. Let's wake up and smell the bacon frying in the kitchen. The concept of separate but equal must die. Our children deserve the best possible education, not in the dark halls of sameness but in the bright corridors of diversity, no matter how difficult or painful. Life should be experienced, not meted out in carefully measured dosages.

The truly revolutionary act is the expression to be seen, to be heard, and to be educated.

It is high time to embrace the truth that change involves a commitment to critical thinking, involvement and wisdom. It is inclusion not isolation that will bring us into the new millennium. It is time to look beyond the immediacies of the moment and reconnect to the future that lies in the spirit of our children. The challenge that faces each of us as citizens and members of this society is how we change the status quo. The answer may lie within a school in New York City that gives special opportunities to a special few. Is that really what is needed?

The Harvey Milk High School, under the guise of increasing opportunities, continues the marginalization melodrama of GLBT youth who are under valued—and they deserve better.

earnesthite@sbcglobal.net


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