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What Would People Think?

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Death Knell of Brown v. Board of Education

Well, so much for racial integration in our schools.

The weapon wielded to strike its death blow? The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. See 'cuz integration measures to counter the increasing re-segregation of our schools - schools are less integrated now than they were in 1970 - are just as offensive to the Constitution as segregation. At least, that's the argument which is garnering sympathy among 5 members of the Supreme Court.

Let's talk bitter, bitter irony.

Update: A better, similar article on the same topic. I've always liked Linda Greenhouse's explanations.


  • The striking of these programs doesn't mean a whole lot for other, different programs. We in Wake County use gerrymandered districts to keep schools integrated - it leads to some loud bitching but is generally safe from lawsuits. Another option is to go all-charter, where students "apply" to high schools. Schools can still use race as a factor in accepting students thanks to the last affirmative-action cases.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 12/04/2006 10:32 PM  

  • The affirmative action cases have always struck me as some of the most fascinating, largely because both sides present amazingly compelling arguments. We need affirmative action programs to make up for the horrors of the past and the continuing - yes, continuing, not lingering - effects. But on the other hand, there's something inherently suspicious about a system that uses an arbitary characteristic like race as a criteria for the distribution of opportunities. People are supposed to have opportunities and rewards based on merit, not skin color. But some people have been so unnaturally disadvantaged by past and present social conditions that it's no longer a question of merit. And frankly, I don't know how to resolve these questions; it's amazing, I've never come across another question which seems so balanced.

    One of the things I love about this intellectual puzzle is that both sides put forth such well-versed arguments. I love the way the past cases have shaken out, with compelling and beautifully written court opinions - be they majority, dissent, or concurring.

    How will things shake out this time? I don't know. Maybe the distinctions between the current case and Brown really are relevant. Maybe not. I'm glad I'm not deciding.

    But I do think that we need a more wholistic solution. We've got a major housing problem if our neighborhoods are re-segregating, and if we can eliminate that problem, then we wouldn't need to worry about shipping students to different schools.

    I say we find a real solution. Regardless of whether we keep these stop-gap measures. Heck, maybe getting rid of the stop-gap measures will put pressure on society to address some of the more insidious underlying problems. I don't know.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/04/2006 11:11 PM  

  • Oh please, Matt. You think that, without some sort of integration measures, people are going to voluntarily stop re-segregating?

    There's a reason there has been re-segregation. It's called White Flight...and it was entirely voluntary. Given the choice, those with more power will always marginalize those with less.

    Jeff - I'm not so sure. The Court seems to be implying that almost ANY use of race in deciding students' school placement violates the Constitution. I guess it's too early to see, though. We'll have to see what the opinion says.

    By Blogger Ben, at 12/05/2006 6:28 AM  

  • Don't have time to think too much now, but a key point I would like to make is these are still children we're talking about here. I have relatives whose lives were essentially destroyed by busing -- being ripped from school districts where all their friends were and shipped off to other schools where they were suddenly the minority and had to deal with things like getting stabbed by pens walking between classes, and all in the name of "racial diversity".

    The divide remains between rich and poor, not between black and white. I'm with Matt - this is a complicated issue, and I'm ready for real solutions, not ones that attempt to use race as a guiding principle when, while it is a factor, it is decidedly not the only one.

    All that having been said, as I mentioned I haven't had time to examine this particular case, but I don't feel inclined to believe that striking down certain affirmative (negative?) action programs is going to take us back to the 1950s.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/05/2006 10:26 AM  

  • I just wrote a long post and it got lost... Dangit. Suffice it to say I was a bit confused at how I was interpreted...

    I acknowledge that re-segregation is happening. I think some of it is voluntary (i.e. white flight), but I think the voluntary stuff should be dropping out as our generation - which grew up in a world where the laws treated all races equally - starts becoming homeowners. I don't know too many people - if any - in our generation who would actually move because the vast majority of their neighbors were a different race.

    But yeah, there's some voluntary resegregation. But even more essential, in my mind, is the unvoluntary re-segregation, things like poverty and the fact the previous generations didn't have equal access to education.

    Anyways, I think we need some reintegration measures, yes. But I think we should be using temporary measures which are aimed at the real underlying problems of societal disenfranchisment, and we shouldn't jump to the conclusion that segregation is a natural or permanent state of affairs.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/05/2006 6:53 PM  

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