(City Journal) -- A liberal consensus has settled on the view that American schools must be more thoroughly integrated before black and Hispanic students can perform at the level of their white peers. The New York Times editorial board, for instance, recently described the city’s elite high schools as “profoundly segregated,” a state of affairs that calls to mind “the spirit of Jim Crow.” Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose long-form reporting on the subject earned her a MacArthur Genius Grant last year, detailed her experience as a black mother trying to find a school for her daughter in an “intensely segregated” system.
Whether Hannah-Jones and her ilk are right about the existence of segregation depends on what one means by the word. As it was once understood, “segregation” referred to the state-enforced policy of keeping whites and blacks apart; if progressives are worried about this kind of segregation, then they missed the boat by about 60 years. But Hannah-Jones is referring to segregation 2.0, under which—despite the existence of numerous laws and government programs actively promoting racial inclusion in housing and education—people of different ethnic and racial groups still tend to live among one another, for various reasons. Under this new definition, America is hopelessly segregated––but then, so is Manhattan’s Chinatown, so is Brooklyn’s Hasidic-Jewish enclave, and so are most other neighborhoods on earth.
If Americans have clustered along racial lines for the past five decades, free from state coercion, then why do neo-integrationists perceive a problem? The answer lies in one of the most famous rulings in American legal history:
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