Ania - I think that socio-economic factors are the primary impetus for change in the scenario you are describing. According to your account, the Blacks and other minorities in your school were among the top achievers. The relatives of the prison inmates presumably come from a lower socio-economic class (unless this is a white-collar prison, which I doubt). Do you think that the relatives of white inmates would behave any better? Similar changes are currently taking place in my town, but here it is a Black on Black thing. Lower class, less educated people are moving in from out of town and in a lot of ways, they are not mixing well with the local, more affluent, more educated populace, although almost everyone involved is Black. These things happen as different populations migrate to different places. I did some undergrad work in another town where poor whites moved into a formerly more affluent area, and there were similar complaints. The local middle-class whites termed the poor whites "white trash" and said they were messing up their community.
Actually, since I grew up in "Hicktown USA" I encountered quite a bit of white poverty & ignorance. As far as achademics went, sadly most of the time the kids from the poorer neighborhoods & outskirts of town didn't get much help. Just as a random aside though, it was often caused by their own parents, as once a father of a girl who a teacher friend of mine tried to convince to apply for scholorships said "She ain't need no learnin', she's gonna stay 'ere & 'elp on the farm." The devide is most certainly concerning class, not race in my town. Up until about 15 years ago, we had a most definate wrong side of the tracks.
You also mentioned the clothes, demeanor, language style, etc., of the new arrivals and how your brother's friends try to shy away from it. All I can say is, don't judge a book by its cover. I listen to hip hop. I dress in contemporary fashion. And yet I am not what some would take me to be. I personally am very turned off by the various musical and fashion trends of the white youth culture like the "goths", the grunge guys, the purple mohawk and black nail polish people, the people who promote drugs like ecstasy and all that. The people who want to feel like outcasts from society, although their parents are usually well to do. Now there is a culture of self-pity and entitlement! I find it silly and corny. But that does not mean that I would totally write off a person who looked like that at first glance.
Yuck, goth & grunge... Trust me, if I jugded books by their covers, I would not have the friends I do... Back in highschool I was in the crowd with the peirced, tattooed, baggy pants, dyed hair yada yada crowd. We weren't goth or grunge... skaters more or less, though very few of us actually skateboarded. We were "the freaks" basicly in highschool, hanging out at coffee houses, decorating overpasses with poetry grafitee (sp?), and those of us who weren't straight-edge would sneak out back into an ally & smoke a bowl. They are (despite some of their weirdness) some of the nicest people I've ever met.
And if I went strictly by covers, I wouldn't be dating a Nepali at the moment (who's ever heard of a Russian & Nepali mix???)
You also mentioned that scholarships, etc., should be based entirely on academic merit. Just for the record, does that also rule out sex as a criteria? Like I said earlier, the largest beneficiaries of welfare and affirmative action have been white women, and you can look that up.
I think that sex should be ruled out as criteria. Both 1st & 2nd in my class were girls, and that has seemed to be the general trend back home for a long time. If those girls managed to win 1st & 2nd, why on earth should women need help with academics? I know there are sexists out there, the whole glass ceiling, yada yada... I think those people should be eliminated, and not stunt the growth of a woman's own self-worth (not saying this happens frequently, but from time to time you get a fema-nazi who's real problem is an infiriority complex.). My sister got full scholorship for her B.A., and then full scholorship again to Georgetown Uni. for her Masters strictly on schoolwork. She is now competing for funding in an arena where sex has nothing to do with it (fellowships for research for phd thesis). If women can compete there, why not in the highschool level???
Anyway, that's my rant for today. Must be going.