The Decision of Our Lives
Brown v. Board of Education, the 61st anniversary of which was May 17, was a landmark decision that really laid the foundation for all the civil rights laws that followed. Segregation laws became vulnerable because the condition of being separate meant that those who were apart from the mainstream were in an unequal relationship with the other people in the country. “Separate” really meant “unequal.”
Brown meant schools would have to begin integrating so that all children had an equal chance to learn and advance in this country. The Supreme Court made an important distinction by ruling that, although no law had revoked the Three-Fifths Compromise of 1787 making a black “person” that percentage of a white person, somehow black people were entitled to at least equal status in the country, albeit “with all deliberate speed.” Somehow, the Court solved that issue even though it skirted the Constitution. In the ensuing decades, several civil rights laws were passed that expanded black people’s rights.
Schools had problems before and after this decision. Nevertheless, education has improved significantly because of students’ exposure to students and teachers of different races and ethnicities. The question then becomes, where will we go from here? I think education is important only if jobs and economic opportunity accompany it.