Despite record heat 250 protesters marched through downtown Raleigh NC in protest of the SB 1070 immigration law enacted today in Arizona. The march passed the police department, county jail, court house and ended at the state capital building. The sentiment of the marches was largely united. All were opposed to SB 1070 and similar legislation introduced in the North Carolina State House of Representatives. Many were encouraged that the most egregiously unconstitutional aspects of SB 1070 had been blocked by a federal injunction. However the overwhelming opinion was that the law needed to be completely overturned and that the federal government should end 287(g), stop detention for minor offenses, stop family separation and enact real comprehensive immigration reform. Many interviewed stated that they felt the anti-immigrant sentiment responsible for SB 1070 and similar laws was driven by political scapegoating that unfairly harms the largely Hispanic immigrant community. Many of the youth advocated the need for the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented high school graduates to attend college at instate tuition rates. Several of the speakers related the current immigration situation to the larger context of human, civil rights and worker justice.
Wake county (Raleigh NC) school board member Keith Sutton briefly grabbed and almost accidentally arrested by Raleigh Police Department. Rev. Curtis Gatewood as well as 18 other protesters were arrested. If this policy were to go in effect it would lead to much higher rates of racial and socioeconomic school segregation in Wake County and Raleigh NC Metro area.
Since last year’s election the Wake county school board has gained a 5 member “white, conservative, so called family values” majority out of the 9 members. Last year’s election had historically low turnout and the results were due to a highly motivated and organized conservative turnout. The key issue the new 5-4 school board majority has tackled is the Wake County school diversity policy. The previous policy was the “bus” students so as to create more balanced and integrated schools in terms of racial and socioeconomic makeup. Many studies and education experts agree that diverse schools are key in fostering a world class educational district. The new majority, which by the way has no professional education credentials, proposed a new policy of “neighborhood schools.” This is a thinly veiled euphemism for school resegregation. The school board majority contend that it is unfair for privileged white students to be bused away from their high income neighborhoods to attend poorer and possibly majority black schools. I myself, attended Hillside High School in Durham NC. I was one of less than 10% non African-American students. I think I received some serious lessons in realness, made a lot of friends, and received a great education. I obtained my International Baccalaureates degree and went on to become a Nuclear Engineer. One of the most valuable things I learned at Hillside is to be comfortable being around and how to engage every type of person, and these skills have served greatly to enrich my life and career. The school board’s efforts are misguided. They are forgetting the fundamental duty of public education, which is to educate and prepare young people and their minds for the real world, where like it or not, you need to deal with a diverse range of people.