Goldberg: You’ve described something that I actually experienced as a kid in the 70s. I was in a school system growing up that was about 60 percent black, 35 white—the local system right outside New York City. Very unusual. My experience going from kindergarten through 12th grade in that situation was fairly tension-free. People actually got along. There was mixing, there was interracial dating…
Hannah-Jones: Your first crush was a black girl?
Goldberg: No, we’re not even going there.
Goldberg: But, yes. And the second and the third.
Hannah-Jones: Why are you turning red right now?
Goldberg: Because I’m interviewing you and you’re not interviewing me. But yes. My high-school sweetheart for many years was an African-American woman who’s a very delightful person. It was an atmosphere where that could happen without consequence. Granted, a lot of the people from the white parts of town went to Catholic parochial schools. If the school district actually took in all of the kids who lived within the boundaries, it probably would have been 30 percent black.
For the whites who went, it was a fairly beneficial experience. I can look back on that and say it was better for my intellectual, moral, civic development—my emotional development—to do that. That, you argue, is disappearing slowly as an experience for whites and blacks. The country is resegregating.
Talk a little bit about the benefits for whites of integration.
Hannah-Jones: I think this is where you struggle trying to convince white people they should do this. There’s a clear imbalance for black kids. It’s literally, will you receive a quality education or not? That is what integration means for black kids. Will you be able to transcend poverty? Will you be a full citizen in the country of your birth?
Goldberg: Hitching a ride to the white majority…
Hannah-Jones: Hitching a ride to the white majority, with the understanding that in a country built on racial caste, they get an inordinate amount of the resources. Things that are acceptable for black children are never acceptable for white children. So if you want what white children get, you have to be where white children are.
White kids don’t need black kids in the same way. Segregation does benefit white families. That is why the whole institution of segregation comes about.
Goldberg: How does it benefit white families, though, in a practical way?
Hannah-Jones: In a practical way, because you get to hoard resources. You get the best of everything. Even in a community where the schools pretty much suck, if there’s a school with black kids, it’s going to suck worse.
Goldberg: I would disagree with the whole premise.
Hannah-Jones: Would you?
Goldberg: Well, going to the second half. The benefits of integration for whites I think outweigh whatever resource hoarding you could do.