Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Triumph of Casey Jenkins

Posted By on Wed, Jul 9, 2008 at 9:41 AM

Steve Glover was right—there were five votes for Nashville’s school rezoning plan. He must be clairvoyant. I’m not exactly a wide-eyed Bambi when it comes to politics, but even I’m a little surprised that the four white members of the Metro school board—in league with one black, Antioch’s Karen Johnson—had the audacity to pass this plan last night in the face of vehement opposition from nearly every African American leader in the city. Under pressure from the Chamber of Commerce and their own white constituents a month before elections, they were obviously hell bent on ramming this through, even if it meant pissing off an entire segment of the city. Nothing could stop it, not an uncooperative superintendent (Pedro Garcia lost his job over this) and certainly not legitimate questions about motives and possible backroom shenanigans leading up to the vote. No matter how hard the white board members try to dress up this plan, essentially the idea is to fix it so white kids in Hillwood don’t have to go to school with black kids from North Nashville. As the NAACP’s Marilyn Robinson puts it, “They want to keep all the poor, black kids together.” In his memo released this week by rezoning opponents, Garcia writes, “At no time did the administration ever think the study would lead to increased segregation, racial isolation, or increased concentration of students who qualify for free and reduced meals. We have always been very much aware of the 1998 court order decision that ended court ordered busing and gave MNPS Unitary Status. The school board had repeatedly stated that diversity was an immutable interest of the district and a strength the board embraced.” “In essence,” Garcia says of what the board did, “a neighborhood school plan is a disguised re-segregation plan.” Last night’s meeting recalled the dark days of Nashville’s racially polarized past. Toward the end, I almost expected the board to turn fire hoses on the crowd. Here’s a good question: Where were the city’s so-called progressive white leaders in this fight? None felt compelled to take a public stand. Not Karl Dean, Diane Neighbors, Mike Jameson or Ronnie Steine. (Oh wait, Steine's kid goes to USN. What does he care about this?) Thanks guys. That’s leadership! It was the triumph of Casey Jenkins. Remember him? A segregationist demagogue, he ran for mayor in 1971 and actually made it into a runoff with the two-term incumbent, Beverly Briley. In a one-issue campaign, Jenkins vowed to oppose court-ordered school busing. He was Nashville’s version of George Wallace. “We love our God, our nation, our country, our homes and our children. We must let those men who call themselves Supreme know that we are not going to let them juggle our children around like bowling pins at a circus,” Jenkins said. Nashville’s better nature won in 1971, and Jenkins was defeated. Not last night. See Progressive Nashville Tiny Cat Pants Kleinheider Update: "Pedro Strikes Back" in this week's Scene.

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