Jul 6, 2007 at 7:43 pm Leave a comment

One of the Supreme Court’s latest rulings (Parents v. Seattle and Meredith v. Jefferson) declares that it is unconstitutional for a public school to maintain integration by taking into account an individual student’s race. This ruling goes against the landmark Brown v. Board decision which ruled that segregation is inherently not equal; therefore, all public schools must be integrated. While Chief Justice Roberts argued that race should never be considered a factor because “the way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” other justices argued alongside Justice Kennedy whose opinion stated that while the specific practices that these two school districts were using were unconstitutional, race should be a factor that can be taken into account by public schools. He also argued that schools have tools at their disposal in order to achieve integration, such as re-drawing school district’s borders and strategic site planning for new schools.

In a perfect world Robert’s argument would certainly be true; affirmitive action seems wrong if one seriously believes that all races and ethnicities start out on an equal playing field. Venture into a major US city ghetto and anyone can immediately figure out that that just isn’t true.

The state of public schools in most poverty stricken areas is dismal at best, which is an obvious outcome of public school funding coming from property taxes, which are based on the financial value of individual properties. Obviously, if a public school is in a poor neighborhood, their funds will be significantly less, and therefore unequal, than a school in a middle or high class area. This becomes a problem based on racial lines, when one looks at poverty and race statistics.

According to the US Census Bureau in 2005, minorities make up 17.1% of the United States’ population, yet count for 55% of citizens in poverty. African Americans make up 24.6% of those in poverty yet only 12.1% of the total population (also according to 2005 Census information).

Such high poverty levels among minorities, particularly African Americans, is a product of institutionalized treatments of ethnic groups throughout history, such as slavery, segregation and white flight, all of which were supported and perpetuated for decades and even centuries by white society, institutions and the US government. We can not deny the long term affects unequal treatment based on race which can not be wiped away simply because America is no longer blatantly segregating public areas and educational institutions. The new SC decision is denying not only the legacy and symbolism of the Brown v. Board decision, but by calling the US a colorblind society, the Court is ignoring real and deep rooted racial problems that were previously sponsored and fosterd by the American government.

The Supreme Court’s ruling also suggests that the integrations of schools does not necessarily mean those schools are better. This latter argument is certainly true. But unless there is another ruling in its place to fix the problem of inadequate public schools in poverty stricken areas, then nothing has been achieved, but rather civil rights progress has been lost.


Entry filed under: race. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .


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