Column: Did integration kill the black culture?

By Gus Bode

Feel free to comment at the end of this article.

Dr. King’s greatest fear was that he would integrate his people into a burning house. With black unemployment and incarceration at its highest, black culture is smoldering in an America that’s burning, and what are we prepared to do about it?

As we end the senseless celebration known as Black History Month, I contemplate if integration has aided in the demise of my culture. The Supreme Court, in Plessy vs. Ferguson, stated that “separate but equal” was the law. Utopically, this would have been better for the intellectual and social longevity of my people. Separate but equal crumbled because America only abided by the separate portion. Blacks received inferior learning materials, housing, and separate but equal economic opportunities.


Integration is based on a premise that race is irrelevant. This ideology is senseless in the context of a racist America. The adage of some that say “I don’t see color” infuriates me. You cannot see me and not see my color! It is part of me; I am unapologetically black and proud of it. However, don’t make any judgments about me based solely on my race. The greatest act of terrorism – slavery – perpetrated against my ancestors disconnected me from my original name and language. The black race in America is the only people who cannot trace their roots. Mexican, Nigerian, Irish, and other nationalities of people all have a tie to a homeland that instills pride. Never being truly “integrated” into American society doesn’t allow me to have that same pride in America.

Booker T. Washington supported blacks creating a financial base, which would force white America to deal with us, on our terms, as our immigrant counterparts have done. Under legal segregation there were flourishing black communities and businesses like Black Wall Street, Bronzeville and Harlem because we were forced to do for ourselves. Julia Hare says the demise of black culture started when white America came into the home and determined how black kids should be disciplined, next moved to the schools and outlawed corporal punishment – whites would not allow blacks to discipline their children and vice versa – hence a whole generation of undisciplined black kids get placed in special ed, which she contends is a holding pen for penitentiaries. Black schools were filled with teachers with preconceived notions about black children who didn’t understand the culture. Black teachers couldn’t openly tell the sad truth about America’s history. The black man’s true history was removed from America’s education system.

This isn’t an indictment of whites but a call for blacks to instill a greater sense of morals and core values. Also to assess what so-called integration has done for or to us.Malcolm X said “… integration is hypocrisy …the government has to pass laws to let us into their education system …they have to pass laws to get the white man to accept us in better housing in their neighborhoods, that’s the equivalent of holding a gun to their head, and that’s hypocrisy.”

Antyne Lester Carbondale resident