Brown v. Board Turns 63 Today

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The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss, reports that the historic Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education turns 63 years old on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. The decision famously ordered the desegregation of public schools in the United States, declaring segregated schools “inherently unequal” and unconstitutional, but all these years later, segregation is far from being eliminated.

In fact, 2016 federal data showed that poor, black and Hispanic children are becoming increasingly isolated from white, affluent children in America’s public schools. Given that, how should Brown v. Board be evaluated? Given persistent school segregation, was it a failure?

Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, attempts to answer this very question. 

“Sixty-three years ago on Wednesday, the Supreme Court prohibited school segregation. In the South, Brown v. Board of Education was enforced slowly and fitfully for two decades; then progress ground to a halt. Nationwide, black students are now less likely to attend schools with whites than they were half a century ago. Was Brown a failure?

Not if we consider the boost it gave to a percolating civil rights movement. The progeny of Brown include desegregation of public accommodations and the mostly unhindered right of African Americans to compete for jobs, to vote, and to purchase or rent homes. Brown’s greatest accomplishment was its enduring imprint on the national ethos: the idea of second-class citizenship for African Americans, indeed for any minority group, is now universally condemned as a violation of the Constitution and of American values. None of these transformations came easily, and none are complete, but none would have happened were it not for Brown.”

Read Rothstein’s entire essay here.