US and Europe on school segregation: impressions from my trip to US

Few days ago I got back from US where I had the opportunity to present the book I edited – Ten Years After-in different meetings I had in Boston, New York and Washington DC. Here are my impressions: First, segregation is a sensitive topic in US and people are taking it seriously as a matter of rights. Unlike CEE where even judges thought that separating children based on ethnicity, the persons I met in US got it right from the beginning that segregation is about equal rights. I think this has to do with education and the influence of the civil rights discourse on society and schools.

Second, although segregation is understood in US as a matter of rights and equality, nobody made a drama of it. Even the questions were rather focused on what is next, what could be done, how best to move on. That is very different from what usually I got when talking about school segregation in Europe. Here, the first reaction is rather emotional and has to do with either defending the authorities or blaming the activists, researchers and/or Roma.  If in US the focus seems to be on fixing the issue, in Europe is about identifying the guilty one.

Third, school segregation should be less focus on blaming the authorities and the guilty ones as there is a temptation to revenge on the situation and persons, to make justice at any costs. It requires compassion and understanding for those that are subjected to it. Only then, one might come with solutions that fix the problem and give victims a sense of dignity.

Forth, human dignity comes from the way one is treated by the authorities and by others. Being separated by your colleagues on the basis of your presumed ethnicity does not give you a sense of dignity and certainly is not about recognition of the fact that you are different. It inflicts you rather a sense of inferiority and social anxiety that you are less human than others.

The visit to US confirmed that school desegregation represents an important step ahead in promoting the Roma agenda. Even if it will not solve all problems faced by Roma, it is a precondition for a long term improvement of the situation of Roma in Europe.

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