This past week has been a woefully sorry one for the rights of the American people. The neocons have gained total control of the Supreme Court and are gleefully and unquestionably overturning the hard-fought gains of the past seventy-plus years. Many of us saw this coming but can only wish, sadly, that we had been wrong.
This court has thrown judicial precedent out the window. Both John Roberts and Samuel Alito obviously lied about their commitment to it when they testified before the Senate of the United States, but it seems lying and cheating and commuting sentences of convicted criminals is all within the Bush playbook. Such arrogance now extends to Bush’s court and seems to continue unabated. This past week it was civil rights, consumer rights and first-amendment rights of individuals all paying the price of this lawless and reckless administration’s blind allegiance to a corporate ideology. But the most stunning of all is the rejection of one of the pillars of our society over the past 50 years—that segregation in education is, as a matter of fact and law, unequal. Not anymore.
We asked Speak Out California’s own Jackie Goldberg to take a look at the right-wing spin on this decision—that we don’t need such legal protections any longer; that Brown v. Board of Education is passe and irrelevent to today’s world and that destroying its mandate is not a big deal. Of course it’s a big deal and Jackie pulls no punches in dissecting the neocon attempt to downplay the significance of this offensive and dishonest opinion by the Court.Here is her response to an opinion piece that ran last week in the New York Times by one Juan Williams:
Racism is Alive and Well in the U. S. Supreme Court
Those who wondered about the effect of losing Sandra Day O’Conner on the U.S. Supreme Court should wonder no longer. A new, pro-corporate elite, reactionary, racist five vote majority on the U.S. Supreme Court promises us to take the country back to Plessy v. Ferguson (1898) when that U.S. Supreme Court said that “separate” was OK if it was “separate and equal.” Well, separate never was equal and it is still not equal today.
Just ask yourself, for example, whether the schools in poor African-American and Latino neighborhoods have the same, “equal” amount of money spent on them? The answer is decidedly “NO.” Since the greatest portion of school funding goes to pay teachers, and since low-income schools have less experienced teachers, more money is spent on schools in affluent and white neighborhoods than on those with low-income, minority students. Also, there are almost no overcrowded schools in white neighborhoods. That means that low-income children have fewer laboratories, and “special use” rooms than white students, and often have to go to schools that are on a multi-track, year-round calendar.
These are just a few of the problems currently in our increasingly segregated school districts. Conditions were often even worse when there was legally required school segregation. Then “inferiority”was legally understood, because kids of color were not even “good enough” to attend the same schools with white children. And the inequality of school conditions and books, and materials was even greater than today.
So, Brown v. Board of Education was decided in a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1954. And while no one can argue that schools are integrated now, there are many, many districts trying to meet the letter and the spirit of the law. What just happened is a bloody catastrophe. And it is further proof that there is still deep rooted racism in how powerful Republican-appointed jurists look at the world.
http://wwwIn an opinion piece in the June 29th New York Times,.http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/29/opinion/29williams.html?ex=1183867200&en=0a2e50d8326f26bf&ei=5070&emc=eta1Juan Williams says that it is “just as well” that Brown v. Board of Education was overturned. Williams argues that “magnet schools, charters and vouchers” will get children of color out of “failing schools,” and that is all that matters. What nonsense! The point of desegregating schools was to make sure that black and brown students attended the same schools as white children, because the Court knew that this was the only way to guarantee access to good books, well paid teachers, and excellent school facilities.
The fact that court and school district decisions have led to re-segregation in public schools underscores the need for legal requirements that are race based. Yet Williams argues the current trend of re-segregation just means we should focus on upgrading the schools that low-income students of color attend, because we are not really ever going to de-segregate our schools. We, as a society, have never upgraded schools serving children of color, and there is no compelling reason to believe that we are now prepared to spend the money to do this now.
He also argues that we should not “mourn” the overturning of Brown v. Board of Education. That Juan Williams argues that “separate but equal ” is OK as long as we really, really, really, really say we want to upgrade “failing schools” is essentially the notion that somehow race does not really matter. Williams also supports the various court decisons that have continuously and systematically undermined school de-segregation by saying that it is futile to use, “. . . schoolchildren to address social ills caused by adults holding fast to patterns of residential segregation by both class and race.” Therefore, one imagines, that Williams means to say that it is just “human nature” for people to segregate themselves, and that de-segregating schools just will never work. Hogwash! Juan Williams’ arguments are so filled with racist assumptions that of course he is happy that Brown v. Board of Education appears to be overturned.
The key question is whether all courts in this nation will now require states and districts to make schools “equal”? And what does “equal” mean? Mostly the courts count dollars, the quality of facilities and books, and the experience of teachers in talking about “equal.” But equal educational opportunity is really about academic outcomes, though equalizing expenditures would certainly be a start. And so far, we are not even willing to do that.
This is indeed a sad, sad, day. It is a day that requires all who care about America to accept that each of us has a role in demanding that segregation in schools be ended, and we ensure that more money will be spent to increase the opportunities for an integrated educational opportunity for all students. The only people who say -we should be color-blind” are those who hold on to the racist assumptions that everyone is treated equally now, and that everyone in our nation starts at the same place in the “race” of life.
Unfortunately racism is very much alive. There are so many indications of this that it is hard to believe that the U.S. Supreme Court majority is unable (or more likely, unwilling) to acknowledge this fundamental reality. A few examples: (1) African-American high school graduates between the ages of 18-30 years of age have a much higher unemployment rate today than white high school drop-outs; and (2) there is no outcry about the fact that the #1 cause of death for African-American women between the ages of 18-35 is AIDS. If that fact were true about white women, there would be millions of dollars allocated to prevent women from getting HIV/AIDS. But there is actually no “urgency” at all, as long as the victims are black.
So, Mr. Williams, it is a lie that “it is time to acknowledge that Brown’s time has passed.” What has passed is the U.S. Supreme Court’s commitment to the 14th Amendment (among others), and to making any effort to deal with prevailing, deep seated, and largely unchallenged issues of institutional racism in America. A bleak day indeed.
Jackie Goldberg is a Board Member of Speak Out California. She served eight years on the LA Unified School District Board, eight years as a member of the LA City Council and six years as a member of the California State Assembly where she chaired the Committee on Education. She is also a teacher who has taught High School in the Los Angeles area for 17 years.