School choice produces segregation: racial segregation, religious segregation, socioeconomic segregation. That is why the idea of school choice originated with Southern governors in the wake of the Brown V. Board of Education decision. They were determined to defend racially separate public schools. Their strategy was school choice. They knew that if students could choose their schools, they could preserve segregation. The federal courts put a halt to that. For more on that, read Mercedes Schneider’s fine book School Choice, which provides a history of this idea in the United States.

But now along comes the Trump administration and Betsy DeVos telling us that school choice is the “civil rights issue of our time.”

This would be a sick joke if it weren’t so serious.

The latest evidence on this front comes from Michigan, where MLive, which is read across the state, reports that racial segregation has intensified as school choice took hold. The story focuses on Holland, Michigan, Betsy DeVos’s home town.

Mike Wilkinson of Bridge magazine writes:

For more than a decade, Holland Public Schools has watched its enrollment fall, prompting the closure – and demolition – of multiple schools.

The decline is not the result of an aging community with fewer, school-age children. Rather, it’s largely a reflection of Michigan’s generous school choice policies. Choice has, consciously or not, left districts like Holland not only scrambling for students, but more racially segregated as its white students leave, often for districts that are less diverse.

“When school choice started, that decline started,” said Brian Davis, superintendent of the Holland district. In 2000, Holland had 15 school buildings; it now has eight. About one-in-three students living within the district are now being educated in another district or charter school. Because state education dollars follow students to their new district or charter, Davis said that Holland’s white flight has shaken the district’s finances.

In the two decades since Michigan adopted school choice, Holland’s white enrollment has plummeted 60 percent, with 2,100 fewer white students. Today, whites comprise 49 percent of school-age children living in the district, but only 38 percent the school population (Hispanics make up 47 percent of Holland schools).

From Holland to metro Detroit, Flint to Jackson, tens of thousands of parents across Michigan are using the state’s schools of choice program to move students out of their resident districts and into ones that are more segregated, a Bridge analysis of state enrollment data shows.

Last week, Bridge showed how “choice” has made several metro Detroit districts less diverse, with white students moving to whiter districts and African-American students increasingly gravitating to almost-entirely-black charter schools.

Since the Brown decision of 1954, America’s public schools have strived, sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully, to bring together children from different backgrounds. This is part of the American project, to teach people of every race, religion, and ethnic heritage to live in peace as citizens of the same background.

We have a president and a secretary of education who do not believe in this project. When DeVos referred to Historically Black Colleges and Universities as “schools of choice,” it was not a mistake. She actually believes that segregation is just fine so long as parents choose it. Her only error was thinking that this was a choice, rather than a response to exclusion.

This is why we must all fight the Trump-DeVos agenda. It promotes the worst in us; it embraces segregation and separatism. What has made America great is not segregation but mutuality; not withdrawing to our enclaves, but joining together in a spirit of community that is large enough for all of us. The Trump-DeVos tent is too small. It is their tent. Most of us don’t fit in.

We need another Martin Luther King Jr. to lead us in singing “We Shall Overcome.”