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EDITORIAL

First, black men were treated differently because they weren’t considered human beings. Later, they were treated “separately, but equally.” The renouncing of segregation and the following decades of integration apparently haven’t changed anything, though, as The Florida state Senate wants to segregate black boys again: Not from whites, but from women.

According to the Tampa Tribune, a bill in the state Senate promotes single-gender schools. It’s not race specific, of course – if it were it would be unconstitutional. But make no mistake: The proposal is targeting young black men. Just ask Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, and Rep. Frank Peterson, D-St. Petersburg.

Wilson told the Tribune, “We have a lot of black men incarcerated. Consequently, many of these black boys have no male role models in their lives. They, in essence, have to be taught how to be men in school … to become a man, someone has to teach you.”Peterson hit on a similar theme when interviewed by the Tribune.

“I think there’s a kind of unity, a strength that black male students can draw from one another,” he said. How coincidental that the bill’s backers mention race while talking about a gender initiative.

It’s not just politicians who think the initiative is “a great proposal,” either. That’s what Samuel Wright, an Africana Studies professor and associate dean of student relations at USF, called the idea.

Florida and its educators apparently want to address a problem by once again treating blacks separately; especially black men, who apparently can’t handle themselves in front of women. Wright, who according to the Tribune, thinks “black boys would focus better without distraction by girls,” said, “In a homogenous environment (in school), it wouldn’t be a situation where you have the young women looking at a black male.”

Many of the issues facing blacks stem from being treated by a separate set of rules; not formally, of course, but certainly in practice. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, blacks comprise only 15.7 percent of the population in Florida, but Florida Department of Corrections data states blacks comprise slightly more than 50 percent of the statewide prison population. That informal inequality extends from doing business – where blacks still earn less than whites – to living everyday life.

The way to change that is to treat people equally. The path to equality starts in schools, where members of society learn how to think and behave.

This proposal does precisely the opposite. It is a horrifying throwback to a shameful time before Brown v. Board of Education, when black men were distrusted around women and were treated separately – a time when the letter of the law said blacks were human beings, but no onereally thought so.