Episode 3: White Kids

 
Ashe Nervil.jpg
My mom said that this is a white world, so I need to learn how to work with white people.
— Ashé, 18
Nelson (left) and Whitney (right) are rising seniors at Democracy Prep Charter High School in West Harlem. They, along with their graduating classmate Ashé, helped kickstart the student-led group Teens Take Charge.

Nelson (left) and Whitney (right) are rising seniors at Democracy Prep Charter High School in West Harlem. They, along with their graduating classmate Ashé, helped kickstart the student-led group Teens Take Charge.

In its unanimous Brown v. Board opinion in 1954, the Supreme Court clearly outlined the negative psychological impact of segregated schooling on minority children – but it did not mention the harm done to white children. 

Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, perhaps the most influential psychologist involved in the case, thought this was a great mistake. Dr. Clark and his wife Mamie, a fellow psychologist, are best remembered for their infamous "doll tests," which demonstrated that young black children in segregated schools develop feelings of self-hatred. In the decades after Brown, Dr. Clark said he regretted not studying more closely the psychological impact of segregation on white children. In a 1982 interview, which you can watch below, he claims segregation "dehumanizes" white children and leaves them "morally animalistic."

We no longer see the same degree of overt racism displayed during the integration of Little Rock Central in 1957 or the Boston busing riots in the mid-1970s, but the question remains: How does school segregation affect white kids?

This episode provides an in-depth look at how three students in a racially isolated Harlem school interact with white students today. From a testy encounter in a church youth group to a long-distance video game friendship, these stories remind us that diverse peer interactions are crucial for everyone, white kids included.

Click to read this excerpt from the social science statement submitted by the NAACP to the Supreme Court in 1952. Kenneth and Mamie Clark and 30 other social scientists signed it. Read the entire statement here.

Taylor McGraw