chapter  17
18 Pages

The Legacy of Segregation: Smashing Through the Generations

A little more than a quarter of a century ago, my wife, then just past 40, and I, just past 50, were expecting a baby. We lived in a middle-class development in Washington, DC, right across the street from a public housing project that was home to a substantial number of poor black people-and poor black people only. One of those people was Brenda (a pseudonym), a teenaged girl who was just about as pregnant as my wife was. It was a cultural encounter that intrigued both Brenda and us. Brenda was stunned and somewhat amused that a woman of my wife’s age would be having her fi rst baby. We, on the other hand, wondered how a teenager with no husband and a cramped, poor, and disorganized living arrangement was going to be a successful mother. And we wondered about her child’s life in a tough segregated public housing project and later in one of our city’s poorest elementary schools.