Brown vs. the Board of Education landmark decision in 1954 sought to end segregation in what was created by Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 with the creation of segregation in public schools. Segregation that negated and denied the humanity of black Americans.
Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote for the unanimous Court in Brown:
|“||Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms. “|
The following year, 1955, the Court completed its ruling. In this second Brown decision, Brown II, the Warren Court ordered the states’ compliance with Brown I “with all deliberate speed.” Desegregation of public schools did not occur right away. Formal compliance with the provisions of these two cases was not expedited, and in the South most public schools would not be desegregated until about 1970 under the Nixon administration. Nearly twenty years after Brown, school desegregation would come to the court’s attention again in two cases involving the use of busing to integrate students across school districts: Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1 (1971) and Milliken v. Bradley, 418 U.S. 717 (1974). Segregationists fought bitterly against the decision and found numerous ways to circumvent the law, by putting their children into private schools, or taking their children out of schools altogether and home-schooling them at home.
With the Brown decision, many black Americans thought that finally we can truly start to becoming full Americans citizens.
But as the years rolled by, many forces have chipped away at the Brown decision. And many people foolishly thought that what was wrought on paper would also follow in people’s hearts. But, to believe that a law on a piece of paper can change 400 years of people’s belief in a racist supremacist way of life to go the way of the dinosaur, was sheer folly. White-run America still does not want to see black America have an abundant life in this country, which is why 54 years after Brown v. Board, schools are still OVERWHELMINGLY all black, and all white.
William Rehnquist wrote a memo titled “A Random Thought on the Segregation Cases” when he was a law clerk for Justice Robert H. Jackson in 1952, during early deliberations that led to the Brown v. Board of Education decision. In his memo, Rehnquist argued: “I realize that it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by ‘liberal’ colleagues but I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed.” Rehnquist continued, “To the argument…that a majority may not deprive a minority of its constitutional right, the answer must be made that while this is sound in theory, in the long run it is the majority who will determine what the constitutional rights of the minorities are.” Rehnquist also argued for Plessy with other law clerks. However, during his 1971 confirmation hearings, Rehnquist said, “I believe that the memorandum was prepared by me as a statement of Justice Jackson’s tentative views for his own use.” Justice Jackson had initially planned to join a dissent in Brown. Later, at his 1986 hearings for the slot of Chief Justice, Rehnquist put further distance between himself and the 1952 memo: “The bald statement that Plessy was right and should be reaffirmed, was not an accurate reflection of my own views at the time.” In any event, while serving on the Supreme Court, Rehnquist made no effort to reverse or undermine the Brown decision, and frequently relied upon it as precedent.
Some aspects of the Brown decision are still debated. Notably, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, himself a black American, wrote in Missouri v. Jenkins (1995) that at the very least, Brown I has been misunderstood by the courts.
- Brown I did not say that “racially isolated” schools were inherently inferior; the harm that it identified was tied purely to de jure segregation, not de facto segregation. Indeed, Brown I itself did not need to rely upon any psychological or social-science research in order to announce the simple, yet fundamental truth that the Government cannot discriminate among its citizens on the basis of race….
- Segregation was not unconstitutional because it might have caused psychological feelings of inferiority. Public school systems that separated blacks and provided them with superior educational resources making blacks “feel” superior to whites sent to lesser schools – would violate the Fourteenth Amendment, whether or not the white students felt stigmatized, just as do school systems in which the positions of the races are reversed. Psychological injury or benefit is irrelevant….
- Given that desegregation has not produced the predicted leaps forward in black educational achievement, there is no reason to think that black students cannot learn as well when surrounded by members of their own race as when they are in an integrated environment. (…) Because of their “distinctive histories and traditions,” black schools can function as the center and symbol of black communities, and provide examples of independent black leadership, success, and achievement.“
Some Constitutional originalists, notably Raoul Berger in his influential 1977 book “Government by Judiciary,” make the case that Brown cannot be defended by reference to the original understanding of the 14th Amendment. They support this reading of the 14th amendment by noting that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 did not ban segregated schools. Other originalists, including Michael McConnell (a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit) in his article “Originalism and the Desegregation Decisions,” argue that the Radical Reconstructionists who spearheaded the 14th Amendment were in favor of desegregated southern schools.
The case had also attracted some criticism from more liberal authors, including some who say that Chief Justice Warren’s reliance on psychological criteria to find a harm against segregated blacks was unnecessary. For example, Drew S. Days has written: “we have developed criteria for evaluating the constitutionality of racial classifications that do not depend upon findings of psychic harm or social science evidence. They are based rather on the principle that ‘distinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality,’ Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81 (1943)….”
In his book “The Tempting of America” (page 82), Robert Bork endorsed the Brown decision as follows:
- By 1954, when Brown came up for decision, it had been apparent for some time that segregation rarely if ever produced equality. Quite aside from any question of psychology, the physical facilities provided for blacks were not as good as those provided for whites. That had been demonstrated in a long series of cases . . . The Court’s realistic choice, therefore, was either to abandon the quest for equality by allowing segregation or to forbid segregation in order to achieve equality. There was no third choice. Either choice would violate one aspect of the original understanding, but there was no possibility of avoiding that. Since equality and segregation were mutually inconsistent, though the ratifiers did not understand that, both could not be honored. When that is seen, it is obvious the Court must choose equality and prohibit state-imposed segregation. The purpose that brought the fourteenth amendment into being was equality before the law, and equality, not separation, was written into the law.
Public officials in the United States today were nearly unanimous in lauding the ruling. In May 2004, the fiftieth anniversary of the ruling, President George W. Bush spoke at the opening of the “Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site”, calling Brown “a decision that changed America for the better, and forever.” Most Senators and Representatives issued press releases hailing the ruling.
The justices were on opposite sides of the Supreme Court decision, who showed where they stood on how segregation had denigrated and harmed not just black America, but, all of America. Their votes on the highest court in the land told Americans how the court felt about school’s initiatives and how those schools tackled with the issue of race in schools from K-12 grades.
From Chief Justice John Roberts:
“Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin.The school districts in these cases (Seattle and Kentucky) have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again—-even for very different reasons. For schools that never segregated on the basis of race, such as Seattle, or that have removed the vestiges of past segregation, such as Jefferson County, the way to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis. . .is to stop assigning studentson a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Roberts was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, Jr. Kennedy proved the key swing vote in striking down the Louisville and Seattle plans.
The 70-year-old justice stated, “This nation has a moral and ethical obligation to fulfill its historic commitment to creating an integrated society that ensures equal opportunity for all its children.
“A compelling interest exists in avoiding racial isolation, an interest that a school district, in its discretion and expertise, may choose to pursue. The decision today should not prevent school districts from continuing the important work of bringing together students of different racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds, stated Kennedy in a separate opinion. “Those entrusted with directing our public schools can bring to bear the creativity of experts, parents, administrators, and other concerned citizens to find a way to achieve the compelling interests they face without resorting to widespread government allocation of benefits and burdens on the basis of racial classifications.”
Justice Clarence Thomas took a harder stance against the choice plans:
“Simply putting students together under the same roof does not necessarily mean that the students will learn together or even interact,” he said. “Furthermore, it is unclear whether increased interracial contact improves racial attitudes and relations.”
Justice John Paul Stevens, in dissent, stated the majority of the court:
“reverses course and reaches the wrong conclusion. In doing so, it distorts precedent, it misapplies the relevant constitutional principles, it announces legal rules that will obstruct efforts by state and local governments to deal effectively with the growing resegregation of public schools, it threatens to substitute for present calm a disruptive round of race-related litigation.”
Stevens was joined by Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.
Justice Breyer vehemently argued that the school programs were well within the guidelines of earlier court rulings since Brown. He cited a 1971 case:
“School authorities are traditionally charged with broad power to formulate and implement educational policy and might well conclude, for example, that in order to prepare students to live in a pluralisitc society each school should have a prescribed ratio of Negro and white students reflecting the proportion for the district as a whole. To do this as an educational policy is within the broad discretionary powers of school authorities,” he quoted from Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.
In his dissent, Breyer was firm and pointed, and his agitation was clear. He said his dissent was “twice as long as any I’ve written before.” He punctuated his words with disappointment with the majority opinion. A liberal member of the court, his emotions surfaced during normally placid readings of the court’s opinions.
He told the hushed courtroom three times that the majority was wrong.
“So few,” Breyer said, “have so quickly changed so much.” He ended his dissent, saying that “this is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret.
Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas, are the conservatives on the court.
Stevens, Bader-Ginsburg, Souter and Breyer are the liberals of the court.
Kennedy was hoped to emerge as the court’s new swing voter (retired justice Sandra Day O’Conner was the swing voter). But, he did not. He joined the other four conservatives, even while expressing reservations on the court’s decision.
Both the Kentucky and Seattle lawsuits were filed by the parents of white students who complained that their children weren’t allowed to attend the schools of their choice. In Seattle, Kathleen Brose claims her daughter, Elisabeth, was separated from her friends in 2000 when she was denied her choice of a high school because she was white. In Jefferson County, Kentucky, the district used what they called a “tiebreaker” system by using race to determine where a student should be assigned.
The Bush administration supported the parents who brought suits against the choice plans.
The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children. And the U.S. Supreme Court gave its message loud and clear.
Segregation still rules the land, and always will rule the land as long as white-run America continues to hate, villify and disparage her black citizens.
And no where is that seen so blatantly than in the recent Supreme Court decision on race-based student initiatives that some schools in Seattle and Kentucky were using to reach racial parity in their schools. That they were trying to create diversity for all students in their districts, even if it meant using race-based directives, even if their aim was to live up to Brown and allow students a chance at a better education, Seattle and Kentucky were trying to right generations and decades of racist wrongs by allowing race to usher non-white students into predominantly white schools to enable young non-white students to achieve a better education they had a right to as US. citizens.
But, the U.S. Supreme Court saw fit to insult and malign the reason behind Brown. That the Supreme Court felt that turning back what little gains Brown obtained, and that the Supreme Court perverted the Brown decision in using it to gut Seattle and Kentucky’s education diversity efforts, was sick and pathetic in the most hateful way.
The last link gives verbatim the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Seattle and Kentucky schools.)
America is imprisoning generations of future children with inadequate educations, and amputating them off at the legs is what the U.S Supreme Court did with its recent decision. Many nations, developed and undeveloped, care more for their children than America does. Many nations may not have top notch high quality schools and universities, but, they do try to educate their children as best they can. Sadly, the same cannot be said for America.
Little by little, America is pulling the Iron Curtain down over many of her citizens. America is wantonly wasting and discarding her human resources in the form of squandered educations of her littlest citizens. The shame of not giving a high quality education to all of her children is an injustice. America is more than willing to let the most productive years of a child’s life go to waste, the opportunities denied, the talents crushed. These young people denied a good education will be the future citizens of tomorrow. That America so hatefully denies them a chance to get the best education, shows how willingly America wants to slit her own throat.
The Berlin Wall that separated East Berlin from West Berlin in Germany was torn down in 1989. And the irony is that the Wall of a Communist country was torn down and lives on only in memory, yet, America still choses not to knock down the many barriers to racial equality—barriers such as residential segregation, economic disparity, sub-standard unequal education, social isolation. America persists in erecting “Berlin Walls” all across America, especially where the subject of education is concerned:
-Hopwood Case of Texas
-Bakke Case of California
-Michigan Affirmative Action vote of November 2006
-The recent Supreme Court Case against race-based student diversity in the classrooms
Minorities have a right to all the benefits of living in a supposedly “civilized” society. This country feels that it has the right to use at will the services, minds, bodies of all its citizens all the while denying many of them the right to a decent good education. Well, so too do the citizens of this country have a right to give their children the best education they can. America has held back many of her citizens from the rights to a life of quality, and she still persists in believing that this hateful mistreatment of many of her citizens is in her best interests. If anything, this cruel behaviour weakens, and crumbles America from within.
If this country can go halfway around the world to shoot democracy into the hearts of the Iraqis, if this country can run all over the globe trumpeting the freedoms and progress of peoples in other countries to have a better life, then it can do the same for its own citizens.
America still loves her worship of exclusion. America still loves her worship of whiteness, which she equates with HUMANESS, all the while hating blackness, which she equates with SUBHUMAN in her eyes.
America still loves SEGREGATION and all the nasty, vicious little perks that go with it. America may not practice de jure segregation, but, she still practices de facto segregation. And she is more than happy to work 24/7 to keep the heat on her black citizens to make sure that they never rise up any higher than she is willing to let them with her racist coporate America, racist educational disparities, racist residential segregation.
As long as America continues her worshipful practice of white hypersegregation, as long as her practice of white habitus continues to minimize, exclude, marginalize and SEGREGATE her black citizens, she will sow a seed of a bitter harvest. As long as America otherizes her black citizens, treats them as a big amorphous blob of “them”, “theys”, “those people”, as long as she continues to spit in the eyes of interaction, interdependence, and closeness between her black and white citizens, she will continue to instill discord and rancor between black and white.
Give me the child at seven, and I will give you the woman.
As long as little white children grow up in all-white, segregated neighborhoods away from getting to know and attend school with their fellow black citizens in a mixed-race school, those little white children will grow up with a stunted, distorted outlook on what a black human being is. By the time a child has entered secondary school (junior and senior high) and they have lived all their lives around white people, white values, white institutions, they will enter high school and college with cemented stereotypical notions already in their minds against black Americans. They will have learned a number of stereotypes, myths and lies about non-white people, and bypassed the development of skills necessary to navigate multi-cultural situations needed to function as Americans in a changing society, in a changing world. To expect any different is insane. There will be practically no change in the white child’s perceptions of black people by the time they reach college. The die will have been cast in childhood. You cannot expect a person to attend work with a black person, then go home to an all-white neighborhood and cut off further interaction between black people and not face the consequences. Nothing but a segregated mind-set will occur from living in an all-white environment that practices segregation instead of aggregation.
The world will not tolerate waiting for America to play catch-up in how she holds back many of her citizens. The rest of the world is not obligated to wait for America to do right by all of her citizens. The rest of the world will run circles around, and run over America, if she continues to debase and denigrate her citizens just because of the color of her skin. Her loss, the rest of the world’s gain. If she is to be a leader in a democracy and a leader in fair rights, then she should live by those ideals that she so stridently screams to all the world. Stop tearing down and hindering her citizens who happen not to be white because they want to better themselves. White America has no right to remain greedy and selfish, with a “Me, myself, and I”, mentality. White America needs to let go of her, “I got mine, now you get yours (even though I’m not about to let you get much of anything)”, mentality.
White people are the biggest practioners of self-segregation. And their all-white/predominantly white neighborhoods attest to that fact.
White habitus conditions their views, cognitions and even sense of beauty, fostering a racial solidarity of self-segregation against all that is black, creating antagonistic antipathy towards their fellow black citizens. Whites experience high levels of racial segregation/isolation while growing up away from many black people. This isolation continues in the workplace, even when black people are present on the job. This creates an aversion to black people, a “negrophobia” if you will, that even flows over into intimate relationships, which no matter how much white people espouse so-called color-blindness, the whites are not very likely to engage in interracial unions with black people.
But, then again what can you expect?
White peoples lack of true empathy towards their fellow black citizens, in social, workplace and school situations, and especially in their lack of empathy or interest in interracial marriage shows plainly that you cannot love or like a people you do not see on a daily continual basis. People you do not intereact with from the elementary/junior high/senior schools on up, from the living in an all-white neighborhood, from working in an all-white environment, you cannot come to see as human.
People learn to create friendships and love of other people when people share activities, proximity, familiarity, and even status. White people living away from non-whites cripple themselves in their extreme racial isolation. White people can change this but as long as they continue to exclude all “Others” from them, most especially black citizens, whites, despite the civil rights revolution, will continue to cultivate a fundamentally segregated life that will have attitudinal, emotional and political implications.
America can no longer afford to waste her human resources any more. She cannot continue to allow many of her citizens to go down the drain. She can no longer be dismissive of her citizens. She can no longer write off with callous disregard her people who are darker than blue.
Wasted potential. Wasted chances. Wasted lives.
The minds of people are locked in early in their lives by the environment that creates and shapes them. In the world of a white child, anything or anyone coming from outside that terrain is alien. Black Americans have been historically treated as third class citizens, foreigners, aliens, strangers in their own country, because the “badge of disgrace”has been accorded to the blackness of their skin color. Many studies, books, and periodicals have been written, especially those books written by the famous bell hooks, that being black is an aberration, and that to love, champion, embrace and protect blackness is a sin and is therefore, unforgivable, as the love of blackness is a brave conscientious break from the established love and worship of all things white.
Nothing will ever change the prejudices and lies and myths of stereotypes until America learns to understand that skin tone is just that—skin tone–and that skin tone alone does not negate the fact that black Americans are part of the human race.
Nothing separates us–black and white– but, manmade barriers, manmade obstacles, manmade circumstances, manmade hate.
The saddest irony is that a Communist country half a world away was able to tear down its most infamous barrier. The irony is that the Berlin Wall has been removed and only a lingering memory of a time of division and difference lives on, but, America still choses to cling to her hates and still choses not to knock down her own barriers and impediments to racial inclusion, racial solidarity , racial equality.
America continues to build Iron Curtains against her black citizens.
And she will reap the whirlwind of destruction, for in destroying her black citizens she is also destroying herself.
And that is the message the U.S Supreme Court sent to all of America.
8 responses to “SEGREGATION NOW, SEGREGATION TOMORROW….SEGREGATION FOREVER”
What, contemporaneously, supports the claim that “Justice Jackson had initially planned to join a dissent in Brown”?
“Brown first came before the court when Chief Justice Vinson sat in its center chair. When the justices discussed the case on December 13, 1952, Vinson stated the he was not ready to overrule Plessy v. Ferguson. A May 17, 1954 Memorandum for the File In re Segregation Cases by Justice Douglas states that, “Vinson was of an opinion that the Plessy case was right and that segregation was constitutional.” Vinson stressed the cases following Plessy. There was, he declared, a whole “body of law back of us on separate but equal” and the court should not overrule this substantial jurisprudence. What was needed, according to Vinson, was time to deal with the racial problem. “We can’t,” he said, “close our eyes to the seriousness [of the problem] in various parts of the U.S. We face the complete abolition of the public school system in the South.”
“With the Chief Justice indicating that he was in favor of upholding segregation, the Vinson court was far from ready to issue a ringing pronouncement for racial equality. Indeed, had Vinson presided over the Court that decided Brown, the result would have been a sharply divided decision. According to the Douglas Memorandum For the File, “In the original conference there were only four who voted that segregation in the public schools was unconstitutional. Those four were Black, Burton, Minton and myself. . . .So as a result of the informal vote at the 1952 conference. . . .if the cases were to be then decided the vote would be five to four in favor of the constitutionality of segregation in public schools.”
“Justice Frankfurter’s Court was for a bare majority the other way. In a May 20, 1954, letter to a colleague three days after the unanimous Brown decision was announced, Frankfurter wrote, “I have no doubt that if the Segregation cases had reached decision last Term there would have been four dissenters——-Vinson, Reed, Jackson, Clark—–and certainly several opinions for the majority view. That would have been catastrophic.”
“The “catastrophe” was avoided when Brown was set for reargument in the next court term, and in the interim, Chief Justice Vinson suddenly died. “This is the first indication that I have ever had that there is a God,” Frankfurter caustically remarked to two former law clerks when he heard of Vinson’s death. The Justice must have felt confirmed in his comment when Earl Warren was appointed as Vinson’s successor. For, under the new Chief Justice, the Court was able to issue its landmark ruling striking down segregation and to do so unanimously, without a single concurring or dissenting voice to detract from the forthrightness of the decision.
“Both the decision and the unanimity were attributable directly to Chief Justice Warren’s leadership.” (1)
Justice Jackson’s longtime legal secretary had a different view, calling Rehnquist’s Senate testimony an attempt to “smear the reputation of a great justice.” (2)
1. See Bernard Schwartz, “Decision: How the Supreme Court Decides Cases”, May 17, 1954, Memorandum For the File”, page 96 (Oxford 1996).: http://books.google.com/books
2. See Alan Dershowitz, “Telling the Truth About Chief Justice Rehnquist”, Huffington Post, September 5, 2005.
3. “The Memo That Rehnquist Wrote and Had to Disown”: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/weekinreview/11lipt.html
Yes, Ann, keep up the good work! We are still segregated and in third-class citizenship after whites and nonblack people of Color today. If anyone doubts this, he needs to get ones head out of the sand and into reality. I read an article somewhere on the internet that Detroit will no longer have any chain grocery stores. That means no Kroger, no Safeway, no Meijers, no Cubs, no A&P, no chain grocery stores period. It’s like that in my neighborhood where good service is hard to find. And they say that we’re living in a colorblind, antiracist society. Colorblind my foot!
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