2019 marks the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. The promise of integration through ruling segregated schools as unconstitutional was a landmark decision. However, 65 years later school segregation persists, and in many respects is worse.
I grew up in East Flatbush, Brooklyn and South Ozone Park, Queens. I am a proud product of NYC public schools. Growing up, I always noticed how segregated my classes were. Honors and gifted and talented classes had disproportionate numbers of white and Asian students. Yet in my lived experience having a diverse group of friends, I had seen the inherent brilliance of my black and Latinx friends. In my junior high school gifted and talented classes, I always wondered why the students who often left those classes were black or Latinx. It always bothered me, but I didn’t have the language nor the historical understanding to ask the right questions.
Fast forward to high school. I took the SHSAT in fall 1988 and got into Stuyvesant High School. I was in a sea of white and Asian students. In some ways, it felt liberating to see so many Asian students. Yet it was hard not to notice how few black and Latinx students there were at Stuyvesant. To this day, I can still name all of the black students in my graduating class (my graduating class was over 900 students).
I took a course at Stuyvesant called Prejudice and Persecution, which set the foundation for my social justice work. That class is where I often saw a good number of black and Latinx students. That class changed how I saw myself, my role in the world, and what change I wanted to see. After that class I wanted to dismantle the systems of oppression but wasn’t quite sure how.
Fast forward to 26 years later between graduating Stuyvesant to today. Only 7 black students out of 895 spots got into Stuyvesant for the fall of 2019. I was quoted in two different articles asking my opinion of the specialized high school admissions process as an alumnus and as an Asian-American activist and education leader.
I have become more vocal about the policy-driven racist outcomes of the specialized high school admissions process. I have started reading more about what it means to be an anti-racist. My work at Edgility Consulting focuses on building inclusive searches for clients to cultivate diverse pools of candidates. Who look like me. Who look like my black and Latinx friends in Brooklyn and Queens.
We are not living the promise of Brown v. Board of Ed. But I will continue to fight for my friends.