The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Mark McCormick is the former executive director of the Kansas African American Museum and a member of the Kansas African American Affairs Commission..
At a symposium in 2014 marking the 60and anniversary of the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education ruling, a statement from one of the plaintiffs offered what now looks like a prescient insight. Many of the Virginia plaintiffs in the class action feared integration and would have preferred to separate and Actually equal.
Many historians regard Brown as one of the High Court’s five most important decisions. The landmark decision overturned Plessey v. Ferguson’s 1896 solidifying segregation in schools and the concept of “separate but equal”. Nevertheless, the opposition persisted.
As we approach Brown’s 68and anniversary, and the seat of the Supreme Court first African-American woman lawyermuch of this age-old fight feels so familiar.
For many, the decision remains a proud moment for the nation, a moment when America not only aligned itself with its burgeoning egalitarian narrative, but also acknowledged a tragic failure it had long tried to keep hidden.
According to a press release about the symposium, held at the University of Kansas, “in addition to establishing inclusiveness in public schools, the case was an important step toward changing broader dynamics of discrimination. in the years and decades that followed. The ruling revolutionized the legal framework for race relations, extended the protection of equal rights to all, and inspired oppressed people around the world to become defenders of freedom and justice. ‘equality.
Langston Hughes once wrote, “America was never America to me,” but for a fleeting moment many in black America thought America could finally “be” to them.
But that moment turned out to be short-lived.
Symposium presenter Hasan Kwame Jeffriesan associate professor of history at Ohio State University argued that society had underestimated the segregationist resolution, pointing to a dedicated three-pronged resistance movement that included grassroots protests, filings of lawsuits and the creation of private schools.
Theodore Shaw, the former head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, called Brown during his remarks at the symposium “sanctified, but hollow,” and said New York City schools are as segregated today as they were before Brown.
But then there was John Stokes, one of the plaintiffs from Virginia.
He explained to me and my son, whom I had brought, that Virginia plaintiffs made up 75% of Brown’s plaintiffs and that many of them, including him, simply wanted school officials to honor their promise of “equal” schools.
Mr Stokes said he knew the white, Southern, often government-sanctioned terror that marked the times would come crashing down on them as soon as they tried to enter the schools. The thought of it terrified him, he said.
In our society, white resistance is seen by many as patriotic (January 6, for example).
Mr Stokes did not underestimate the determination. He had seen it up close.
Take into account continuous hysterical claims that school officials have incorporated critical race theory (a university-level study) into elementary school curricula, that diversity makes white children uncomfortable, and that certain books should be removed from library shelves.
Proponents of the breathless claims have issued violent threats against school board members, school administrators and classroom teachers across the country.
Meanwhile, the flight of whites to affluent suburbs has created homogenous neighborhoods with housing costs beyond the means of most black families, meaning schools there will resemble neighborhoods. The spread of private Christian schools invulnerable to constitutional calls for equality continued.
All this, while claiming a healthy innocence.
This year, according to The Grio website, of the 47 senators voting against Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court, 25 had voted for her less than a year ago for lower judicial positions. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham voted twice for her.
Jackson will have to wait until late June or early July to take her seat, but she will land on a court seemingly more hostile to civil rights and civil liberties than the Earl Warren-led court that handed down the Brown decision nearly seven decades ago. .
Things have changed a bit, but this environment still feels so familiar.
Noted Scholar WEB DuBois once said, “Either the United States will destroy ignorance, or ignorance will destroy the United States.” After decades of running and with many decades to come, not only have we not moved away from ignorance, but we are still running neck and neck.
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