How 'good White people' derail racial progress
Updated 2103 GMT (0503 HKT) August 2, 2020
(CNN)It was a scene that seemed like it came from another era.
Angry White parents gripping picket signs. People making death threats and a piece of hate mail reading "Blacks destroy school systems." Community panic about school desegregation orders.
But this wasn't archival footage of White Southerners from the 1960s. This took place last year in Howard County, Maryland, a suburban community that prides itself on racial integration. It was there that progressive White parents mobilized with other groups to try to stop a school integration plan that would bus poor students, who were mostly Black and brown, to more affluent, whiter schools.
Willie Flowers, the father of two eighth-grade boys in Howard County schools, was stunned by the ferocity of the resistance. He says it was a flashback to the type of racism he encountered attending schools with Whites in the South.
"I'm from Alabama and I thought I was escaping that type of nonsense," says Flowers, who is president of the NAACP Maryland State Conference. "There have been cases of Confederate flags at high school football games, racial epitaphs."
In 2020, White support for the Black Lives Matter movement is at an all-time high. People are buying so many books on antiracism that booksellers are having trouble keeping them in stock. A commentator said the George Floyd protests that erupted this spring may lead to "audacious steps to address systemic racial inequality — bold, sweeping reparative action."
Yet any attack against entrenched racism will run into one of the most formidable barriers for true change: Good White people.
The media loves to focus on the easy villains who get busted on cell phone videos acting like racists. But some scholars and activists say good White people -- the progressive folks in Blue states, the kind who would have voted for Obama a third time if they could -- are some of the most tenacious supporters of systemic racism.
Many are such dangerous opponents of racial progress because their targets can't see their racism coming -- and often, neither can they. Scholars say these people are often motived by unconscious racism they are loathe to admit and disguise their racial hostility with innocuous-sounding terms like "neighborhood schools" and "property values."
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There can't be real change until White people are willing to give up some power and resources where they live, says Matthew Delmont, author of "Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation."
"The sign that change is real as opposed to symbolic is that people are making real changes to things close to them in their own backyards, such as supporting more affordable housing in their neighborhood, or programs that would integrate schools," says Delmont, a history professor at Dartmouth College.
But many Whites, he says, have never been willing to take that step.
"Broadly speaking, White Americans and other people with socio-economic status have to be willing to give up something to have a more just and equitable society."
Why integrated schools evoke so much resistance
When it comes to this issue, history doesn't inspire much confidence. That's why much hasn't changed for what one scholar calls "ground zero" for racial equality: schools and homes.
Black Lives Matter signs are showing up on more White people's lawns today. But statistics suggest that these lives don't matter as much if more Black people start sending their children to school with White kids.
Public schools in America remain highly segregated, not just in South but in many blue states and progressive communities.