Savage Inequalities Essay

Submitted By kmeberth
Words: 947
Pages: 4

Savage Inequalities “’The Ultimate terror for white people…is to leave the highway by mistake and find themselves in East St. Louis. People speak of getting lost in East St. Louis as a nightmare. The nightmare to me is that they never leave that highway so they never know what life is like for all the children here. They ought to get off that highway. The nightmare isn’t in their heads. It’s a real place. There are children living here.’” (Kozol, 18). In the novel, Savage Inequalities, Jonathan Kozol describes the horrendous living conditions within five poverty-stricken areas in the United States. He is instantly able to put feelings of both shock and discomfort into his readers by describing the toxic wasteland that is considered East St. Louis. Actually having grown up in Fairfax County, I had no idea anyplace like this could still exist in our country, much less right in my backyard. If America is supposed to portray freedom and equality, then why are there still places like East St. Louis that could pass for a part of the third world? The main problems presented in this story were racist issues in the schools, differences between poor and affluent districts, and determining how to improve the public education systems.

Most of the black communities Kozol visited were created when blacks moved north to work in factories, which were looking for cheap laborers. However, over time these factories moved to different locations, which caused massive unemployment rates in those areas. In my opinion, this is what caused the initial economic downfall and the result of predominately black neighborhoods. Kozol witnessed a few different versions of racism as he visited the various cities. Blacks mainly inhabited East St. Louis (also known as “The Bottoms”) while the wealthier white people resided on the adjacent hills (known as “The Bluffs”). Those who lived on The Bluffs made it clear that their black neighbors were not welcome, especially in their much nicer schools. On the other hand, some schools in the Bronx seemed to express racism in a different way. In a regular classroom there would be all white students, maybe with an exception to another black child. There were also separate classes set up for the “special” students, these were filled with primarily black or Hispanic students. This shows that even if a school is technically desegregated, administrators are still able to keep students separate because of their race. In 1876, the historic court case Plessy vs. Ferguson passed through the Supreme Court claiming that schools could be “separate but equal”. In my opinion, even though Brown vs. Board of Education went through the Supreme Court and cancelled out the previous ruling of Plessy vs. Ferguson, segregation issues nowadays are even worse than before. Now, because of Savage Inequalities, many more Americans know about these modern issues and see that some schools are treating minorities both separate and unequal.

When comparing the schools Kozol visited in the inner city to the wealthy suburban ones nearby, the differences are tremendous. Du Sables High, where many of the poor blacks students attend, has a dropout rate of about fifty-percent. Along with the extremely high dropout rate, the majority of the students are illiterate (usually around a sixth-grade level) and can afford very few supplies and outdated books for those who try to stick with school. “’You don’t dump a lot of money into guys who haven’t done well with the money they’ve got in the past,’ says the chief executive officer of Citicorps Savings of Illinois. ‘you don’t rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.’” (80). In contrast to Du Sables