RIP: Brown v. Board of Education

In the seminal 1954 case, Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.  It recognized that "separate but equal" was a sham.  In 2007, this current Supreme Court struck down two separate cases (KY and WA) in which local school districts were trying their best to stay true to the original ruling, trying to desegregate their schools.  

Now, I realize that their is a difference between 1954 and today.  At that time, segregation of students based on skin-color was official and actively enforced school policy.  At this time, segregation of students based on skin-color is the by-product of continued systemic inequities and social stratification.  Neighborhoods are segregated, and because schools draw from neighborhoods, the schools are segregated.  Supporters of the recent ruling point to this difference and pull out the tired line of "reverse-discrimination," claiming that we should never make decisions based on race either to segregate or to desegregate.

Yes, it's true that if conditions were truly equal, we should not take race into account.  Ideally it should be a non-factor.  But since conditions are continue to be not equal, and school districts where the students are predominantly white tend to be better funded than school districts where the students are predominantly people of color, then ignoring this disparity is essentially condoning continued racial segregation and inequity.  

There were two separate cases that got combined into one ruling - one in Louisville, KY and the other in Seattle, WA. In <i>neither</i> case was race the only factor in deciding who gets to go where, but it was being used as a factor. The purpose in each case was to make the schools racially diverse. In the KY school district, what they decided is that they did not want any one school to have less than 15% people of color or more than 50% poc. In Seattle, students living in the neighborhood applied for the schools they wanted and in the cases where the percentages were already filled - let's say the school was already at 85% white, then the student of color was admitted preferentially.  <i><b>Only</b></i> when all other factors were "equal" was race used as a tie-breaker.  Again, the goal was to maintain numbers that reflected the diversity of the school district as a whole, even tho individual neighborhoods within the districts were not as diverse.  

Apparently the Supreme Court had a problem with that.  And apparently this conservative Supreme Court is not so big on states rights.

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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative