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Drawing Simple Lines

The Supreme Court recently drew a line between desegregation plans based on race and plans based on socioeconomic factors.  But now that the tax code and other subsidies further encouraged the flight of affluent parents to the far exurbs, the best we can do for the central city poor is to bring social institutions into our schools, and our schools into our wider society.

But it won't be easy. 

CapoeiratumbleSeven decades ago, the "non trespass zone" established by Governor Alfalfa Bill Murray, and enforced by machine guns, was a couple of miles to the southeast of my Oklahoma City house. 

The cruel trick that inspired one of the most brutal scenes in American literature, Ralph Ellison's "the Battle Royal," also occurred in our community.  Ellison walked past my house as he unknowingly carried the infamous note, "Keep this nigger running."

The year after Martin Luther King was assassinated in a sanitation workers strike, Ralph Abernethy lead a march of sanitation workers towards city hall. The night before, the city council drew a line (about 200 yards east of my neighborhood) and prohibited the marchers from crossing. The district attorney promised to enforce the ordinance "by any means necessary," and the police dogs and the shotguns were ready. A possible bloodbath was averted when the "good ol boy" sheriff shouted at the police chief "you can shoot me too," and joined the marchers.

Now, the lines in my neighborhood are between the "Hoover set" and the Bloods and now the Locos, have endangered poor children of color.

-- John Thompson


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