It has been 60 years since the US Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education, outlawing segregated educational systems.
60 years – my entire life – and today, schools are still segregated, if not by law then certainly by practice and custom – and especially by class (which, in America, is about the same thing).
The late legal scholar, Derrick Bell, once told an interviewer, “Now, we’re still segregated, but there’s nothing under the law that we can do about it.”
Professor Bell made those remarks in 2003, and they’re as true now, as they were then.
When Brown became law, North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin led a movement of politicians called the “Southern Manifesto”, pledging uncompromising opposition to Brown. His efforts won overwhelming support.
This campaign of legal resistance to a Supreme Court ruling has continued from that day to this; segregation, by other means.
It has led us to a separate but unequal educational system, if you can’t afford better.
It is the silent spirit behind the charter school movement, the erection of private schools supported by public money, where some get a decent education, while most get none.
It is what it is.
Educational activist, Jonathan Kozol, who has visited perhaps more classrooms across the country than any other living soul, has described American schools as “apartheid” (the term comes from Afrikaans in South Africa: apartness), and called US education institutions “The Shame of the Nation” (the title of one of his books).
60 years after Brown – and it has been treated just as the Constitution was treated for 100 years after the end of the Civil War – like it didn’t even exist.