Integration of public schools in the United States was supposed to take place more than 65 years ago. Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 declared that the segregation of schools was unconstitutional under the 14th amendment and that children of all races should have equal access to education. While this court case could and should have ended the historically racist public school system, there are still instances of incredible discrepancies between the quality of public education provided to white children and minority children across the country.
In the comic “Segregation by Design” by Jessica Trounstine and Darick Ritter, a young couple by the names of Jennifer and Tom, sets out to find a house in the Philadelphia area to prepare for the child they have on the way. As they are searching for their house, the couple makes a list of all of the qualities they want in their new home including “under $150,000, good school for Katie, low crime, nearby park, and easy to commute to Philadelphia.” Jennifer and Tom quickly learn that they must give up some items on their wish list in order to live near a good school for their future daughter.
As the comic progresses, Tom and Jennifer’s realtor, Linda, tells the couple the story of how the suburbs of Camden and Cherry Hill became so different. Linda explains the policies that “indirectly” or “unknowingly” created such different demographics between the two towns. She tells them about Land-Use Policies and Federally Backed Home Loans used in the 1960s to allow white families to live together while shutting minority families out. Linda explains that each of these policies helped segregate schools while hiding behind other agendas.
“When the powerful worry about the character of their street or school, they change their strategy of segregation.”
While this comic is likely not a true story, the plot is all too realistic. Trounstine and Ritter are careful to set their comic in an actual US city where the issues of segregation are still influencing students and families to this day. This setting makes it easier for readers to understand the magnitude of the issue at hand. Cherry Hill and Camden are towns that exist on a real map and can be visited in real time. Even if a reader does not live in a city that experiences intense school segregation, it is likely they can estimate how closely this story takes place to their everyday lives.
The setting of this story is not the only reason that it has the potential to impact so many people. The choice to create a comic strip rather than a typical short story opens the publication to many more people. Although a child would probably not read this comic, the theme of illustrations and colorful text creates a more captivating experience for readers of all backgrounds.
School segregation is an important current issue but not necessarily everyone knows that. Through eye-catching and informative pieces such as “Segregation by Design,” hopefully the United States Education System will start to see some change.