copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert
It is official Brown versus Board of Education has been reversed. Providing equal education opportunities to all children, regardless of race, color, or creed is no longer a priority. The 1954 Court decision that invalidated the principle of ‘separate but equal’ was overturned on June 28, 2007. This day will live in infamy. In another of the many recent 5 to 4 split decisions, the neoconservative Supreme Court canceled the promise made to students of color.
School integration, which was once considered essential, as of today, is no longer practicable. Perhaps, more accurately, the work needed to improve the quality of education for those living in impoverished areas was not pleasurable. Now, efforts to unify schools need not continue. Endeavors to integrate are illegal.
Today’s Supreme Court ruling, Parents Involved In Community Schools v. Seattle School District Number 1 et al. has basically nullified the construct of racial equality in the schools. According to the majority, Affirmative Action is no longer thought just. The conservative Justices deemed this principle an illogical inconvenience. The Judges in the majority stated students in white enclaves or Black must travel too far to ensure equal access to quality schools. Justice Roberts declared.
The districts ”failed to show that they considered methods other than explicit racial classifications to achieve their stated goals.”
Perhaps, the school system did not demonstrate a means for combating what is the convention. Schools do not have the power to force people to integrate their local neighborhoods.
Educational institutions are not able dictate who lives in what community. After receiving this ruling, Districts must relent, cease, and desist. School Districts will not have the option to open enrollment to those that do not reside in their region.
Oh, if they could; schools might possibly be given an opportunity to truly teach tolerance. However, for now, that prospect is but a dream, one Martin Luther King hoped we would realize.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
Sadly, the fantasy faded on this morning in June 2007. The nightmare is vivid. Facilitating awareness for diversity is a slow process, made more challenging when elders impose their preconceived notions on innocent children. If we do not endure, then the forces of “evil,” malevolence will.
As of June 28, 2007, this newly formed bias will be built into the laws governing school enrollment. The likelihood is bigotry will flourish. Culture clashes are now legal and encouraged by the dominant neoconservative Supreme Court.
Thankfully, there was vocal dissent. Justice Stephen Breyer, ardently voiced his concern; however muted in its effect on the final decision. In his fervent appeal Breyer offered.
Roberts’ opinion undermined the promise of integrated schools that the court laid out 53 years ago in its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
”To invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown.’
Justices Breyer went on to express his fury over the fallacy that is now prominent in the Court records. In commenting on the opinion expressed by the Chief Justice Roberts, that the white students who didn’t get the school of their choice in Louisville and Seattle were equivalent to the black students in Brown versus Board of Education who were denied access to integrated schools in Topeka, Kansas, Justice Stephen Breyer forcefully spoke with some restraint stating . . .
“You have got to be kidding me, that the efforts in good faith of these schools in Louisville and Seattle to integrate their schools, to make sure that there’s diversity, how dare you compare that to the discrimination of Jim Crow?”
Nonetheless, it happened. The words were uttered and the wheels of derision were set more deeply into the structure of society.
Division may have been the original intent of this Court. The rulings delivered in this past week would indicate that the Supreme Court is definitively split. The Conservative Jurists have no intention of seeking unity. However, whether that is the actual goal long-term is unclear, as much is in this Court. Chief Justice Roberts declared.
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race,” he wrote
Apparently, we are to believe that in our attempt to reverse centuries of racial prejudice, which in my mind equates to fear of the unknown, stranger anxiety, or xenophobia, segregation must stand. Humans will validate their reasons for racial discrimination characterizing these as the “natural.” The unequal “process of selection” is firmly planted in the minds of many and as of this day mandated by the courts.
It is quite ironic to this author; as we philosophically battle against the idea of ethnic cleansing elsewhere, we here in America are proud to adopt policies that promote it. We honor division in our local communities, and presently, with the Courts blessing.
Perhaps, that has always been the truer agenda. In placing the newest neoconservative members to the Court, we have awarded lifetime positions of extreme power, to those that practice the policy of “Divide and Conquer.” It seems some of the standing Justices already accepted the notion of separation as truth. Notably, Justice Clarence Thomas. This Jurist stated his belief; separation is inevitable.
“Simply putting students together under the same roof does not necessarily mean that the students will learn together or even interact. Furthermore, it is unclear whether increased interracial contact improves racial attitudes and relations.”
Perchance, the evidence is ambiguous because Affirmative Action rules, those that advance unity have not been fully embraced or enacted. Thus, we have this Court case and the oft-repeated belief of Justice Thomas Affirmative Action does nothing to help the disenfranchised.? Judge Thomas has faith that is was the goodness of one insightful, intelligent, and intuitive individual that altered his life, Father Brooks. In a March 12, 2007 interview Justice Thomas recounted his tale of trials and tribulations.
Why is Father Brooks such an important person in your life?
That was an era of in loco parentis. It was a transition period unlike today when you have these notions of race entrenched. It was a time, actually, when there was no set road map for kids. Father Brooks understood something intuitively, that we were just kids. He knew we were from a lot of different environments.
Father Brooks made a point of trying to recruit a lot more African Americans to campus in the months before you came. Do you think that recruitment drive helped you?
Oh no. I was going to go home to Savannah when a nun suggested Holy Cross. That’s how I wound up there. Your industry has suggested that we were all recruited. That’s a lie. Really, it’s a lie. I don’t mean a mistake. It’s a lie.
I had always been an honors student. I was the only black kid in my high school in Savannah and one of two or three blacks in my class during my first year of college in the seminary. I just transferred. I had always had really high grades so that was never a problem. It was the only school I applied to. It was totally fortuitous. The thing that has astounded me over the years is that there has been such an effort to roll that class into people’s notion of affirmative action. It was never really looked at. It was just painted over. Things were much more nuanced than that?.You hear this junk. It’s just not consistent with what really happened.
What did Father Brooks do?
Father Brooks realized that we needed to be nurtured not that we needed it every day but that we were going to have unique problems. When you have six blacks in a class of 550 kids, you need that. We all came from very different backgrounds. That’s something that gets lost in this weird notion of race that somehow you can come from New York and Savannah and Massachusetts and somehow you’re still all the same. That’s bizarre, and it denigrates individuals.
Father Brooks understood that. He saw people who were individuals who happened to be black who had very different outlooks.
Might we ask what will become of those that do not have a Father Brooks. Will they feel as young Clarence Thomas did before he was given the gift that Affirmative Action provides to those without a mentor, as the youthful scholar felt when he first arrived at Holy Cross college?
I was a kid. I was confused. I was 20 years old. I had no place to go. I had no precedent for anybody going to college. I had no precedent for anybody being in New England. I had no road map. I didn’t know anybody to call. I had nobody to talk to. I had nobody to give me advice. Now, what do you do? You were just a kid, trying to make all these choices.
Were you angry?
Sure. I was upset. I was upset with a lot of things. You get there and you sort it out. Look at that neighborhood there [Thomas points to a photo of a desolate strip in Georgia]. How do you go from that to Holy Cross? How do you do it? That’s why some of us were really concerned about throwing some of these kids into those environments without thinking because you have a theory. That’s the neighborhood I lived in before I went to live with my grandparents. Doesn’t look very good, does it?
There were a lot of changes to absorb. Just to think about it was fatiguing. It’s still really fatiguing. It’s also fatiguing that people assume we all showed up the same. A friend of mine sent me that print there. [A sketch of an African American man, draped over a desk with his hands extended toward the floor.] He has since passed away. He thought it captured my life.
Oh yeah. That’s why I keep it there. Look at the hand. Look at the exhaustion.
What sort of exhaustion?
Everything. Mental. Physical. Spiritual. Just constant change. You just want to slow down. You see people take a walk and you want to, too.
Mental, physical, spiritual exhaustion, exasperation, this is the legacy that we as a nation are leaving our children of lesser means. A person can only live without hope for so long. As the rich become richer and the impoverished plunge further into forced ignorance we can expect that this emotional fatigue will be felt by all of us.
Perhaps, we, as a country, by promoting principles that further division will experience what comes when the classes are truly separate and far from equal. Once again, we may witness what comes when people are [class] war weary. Possibly, rebellion will be the result. I trust in time revulsion will turn into rage, and why not. Deep division breeds revolution.
In just a few short years the craftsman President George W. Bush has created such strife abroad. Civil War in Iraq is invasive. With his recent appointments to the Supreme Court Mister Bush has secured the eventual possibility here at home. If not Civil War, certainly civil unrest may become our shared truth. Inequitable change often causes conflict.
This President, master of the message George W. Bush has definitely advanced imbalance. Most of us accept that President Bush has altered world politics with precision. He has done so with expediency. It seems this world leader has not ignored the domestic front. His appointments have altered the face of the Supreme Court. The newer members serve to accelerate the schism. Justice Stephen Breyer may have said it best.
“Never in the history of the court have so few done so much so quickly.”
Indeed we as a nation are deeply divided. We have reason to expect that soon Civil War, will be here. It is the natural outgrowth of a society divided. I can only ask that we remember the words of many and take these to heart.
United we stand; divided we fall.
~ Benjamin Franklin, John Dickinson, Abraham Lincoln
Sources for the Misnomer, Segregation is superior? . . .
- Separate is Not Equal. Brown versus Board of Education. Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
- Parents Involved In Community Schools v. Seattle School District Number 1 et al. No. 05-908. Argued December 4, 2006–Decided June 28, 2007
- Justices Limit Use of Race in Placement of Students. The Associated Press. June 28, 2007
- Supreme Court Decisions – Current Term FindLaw.
- Divided court rejects school diversity plans, By Bill Mears. Cable News Network. June 28, 2007
- Toobin: School ruling ‘a victory for conservatives, Cable News Network. June 28, 2007
- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks. Business Week. March 12, 2007
- “United We Stand, Divided We Fall. Answers.com.