“That’s messed up”: A critical race analysis of Tacoma’s school desegregation and connections to youth experiences today
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In 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Brown v. Board that separate but equal had no place in public education, thereby setting the course to racially desegregate America’s public schools. Whereas many school districts faced mandatory desegregation orders, Tacoma Public Schools in Washington State chose to voluntarily desegregate its schools. Government reports and newspaper articles written around this time predominantly laud the district for its voluntary desegregative efforts. This thesis applies Critical Race Theory and Youth Participatory Action Research to link the local, historical context of desegregation to present-day experiences of five youth of color in the district. This is important because to date there is no known local analysis of desegregation nor one that elevates the voices of young people. This study complicates views on school desegregation as a means towards educational equity and argues that desegregation in Tacoma, mirroring trends nationwide, benefitted White people first and foremost.