Today is the 58th anniversary of Brown v Board of Education Topeka Kansas. This should be a day of celebration, but it needs to be a day of recommitment to the ideals of this landmark Supreme Court decision. The conservative Roberts Supreme Court is poised to dismantle the gut and heart of Brown. It has already begun the work.
In 2007, Parents Involved v. Seattle School District, Chief Justice Roberts used Brown v Board of Ed as justification in his majority opinion in support of the very opposite of the intention of the Brown decision. He said that school districts could no longer use race as a factor to prevent the resegregation of schools. In his own words, “[b]efore Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin. The school districts… have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again…”
Justice Stephen Breyer for the four dissenting Justices rejoined that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment “has always distinguished in practice between state action that excludes and thereby subordinates racial minorities and state action that seeks to bring together people of all races… [I]t is a cruel distortion of history to compare Topeka, Kansas in the 1950s to Louisville and Seattle in the modern day… ”
By arguing that using race as a factor in working to level the playing field of equality is actually going against the notion of equality, is ridiculous if not absurd. The Roberts court is using Brown to undermine Brown.
The Supreme Court will be tackling Fisher v University of Texas in its next term. The University of Texas, in the lower federal courts, has been supported in its maintaining of race as a factor in its undergraduate admissions. How else can integration be achieved unless we recognize race? This conservative court is not likely to support the lower court’s decision.
The Brown decision in 1954 overturned “separate but equal” (1896 Plessy v Ferguson) by requiring the integration of public schools. In order to integrate schools, race is a factor which must be recognized. Brown is presently being interpreted by this Supreme Court as there should be no acknowledgement of race in schools thereby not limiting any single race. This “race blindness” is considered equality even though it will end up in a school segregation that looks much the same as it did in 1950. Interpreting Brown as getting rid of race labels makes the intention of the Brown decision irrelevant, impotent, and completely turned upside down.
On this 58th anniversary of the Brown decision, it is imperative that we commit to working to reelect Obama to make sure any Supreme Court vacancies are filled with justices who understand the heart and spirit and intention of school integration.