Racial tension, about segregation, has undoubtedly driven several important court cases throughout American history; one of the most important cases in which dealt with segregation of schools was Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. There were such strong arguments for both sides, causing the justices to become deeply divided, which led to the decision of putting the case on hold to allow additional time to consider and to allow each case to formulate new briefs and arguments. In short, the Court’s primary objective was to determine whether the segregation of schools was constitutional.
For one to better understand why such a historic case like Brown v. Board of Education was occurring, one must acknowledge what significant court case occurred previously, the case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. During the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court denied equal justice and used the idea of separate but equal to allow the government to continue to use segregation within the United States. However, many believed that the decision of the Plessy v. Ferguson case didn’t correlate with the Fourteenth Amendment as it entails “No state shall… deny to any person with its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Due to this, almost fifty years later, Thurgood Marshall, a lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), made an argument that the government’s use of segregation within the education system violated the Fourteenth Amendment. He supported his argument by combining numerous segregation cases throughout the country into one case, the case of Linda Brown. Linda Brown, among several others, was denied acceptance into white schools within her neighborhood and was forced to attend a school miles away due to the color of her skin. In this time of our country, separation of color was considered as equal, however, Martha Minow, a professor at Harvard Law School, claimed, “in the five lawsuits combined at the Supreme Court as Brown v. Board of Education, the NAACP added the argument that racially separate schools were inherently unequal because they installed racial hierarchy and exclusion in children’s formative experiences, denying black children access to the resources, social networks, and equal regard accorded to white children in the larger society.” Her statement continues to support her idea that white schools were often of much higher quality as they had better access to educational resources like school funding, skilled teachers, and a quality academic curriculum in comparison to the schools for black students. To continue, Samuel DuBois Cook, a President Emeritus from Dillard University, states, “Separate but equal facilities are constitutionally permissible for blacks and whites. The key, of course, was ‘separate.’ The ‘equal’ was never enforced or taken seriously… Thus, the doctrine of equality in Plessy was a lie.” Cook’s statement supported the idea that it was very common to see a significant amount of unequal educational opportunities for those who are white in comparison to those of color.
Moreover, Brown’s side argued that having separate schools, based on race, was detrimental to African-American children. Exceptional evidence supported that this form of segregation in school systems resulted in both unequal education and resources as well as promoting low self-esteem among diverse, minority students. Brown’s argument fought to show how the use of segregation by law implied that people of color were inherently lesser than those who are white. Brown’s side asked the Court to eliminate segregation under the law.
Consequently, the Board of Education’s argument entailed that the separate schools for people of color in Topeka were equal in all aspects and were to the Plessy standard. Furthermore, they argued that all of the school buildings, courses offered, and quality of teachers was very comparable between white and black schools. The Board of Education claimed that some programs for minority children were actually better than those offered at the schools for whites due to federal funds for Native Americans. They also referenced back to how the Plessy case supported segregation and argued that these schools were equal facilities and explained that the discrimination by race did absolutely no harm to children by any means.
As the result, the case for Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruled unanimously, 9-0, that racial segregation within public schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution as it deprived them of equal protection of the laws (Cook, 2005). The decision declared that separate educational facilities for black and white students were innately unequal, and therefore, segregation of public schools within the United States was unconstitutional. The Court decision helped to diminish the abundant amount of racist social structure by outlawing segregation within school systems. Although this decision focused rigorously on public schools, it implied that segregation was not accepted in other public facilities as well. For instance, Cook stated, “inspired by the Brown decision and other forces… the great Civil Rights Act of 1964, in effect, reinstituted the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Voting Rights Acts of 1965, in effect reinstituted the Fifteenth Amendment.” This Court case reversed rights and privileges for people of color and truly helped to change the nation by giving each person, regardless of their race, justice. Kiyana Davis Kiel, a Professor from the University of California Berkeley School of Law, claims, “As a nation, we must open our eyes, confront our past and present, and work toward the racial equity that continues to elude us; we must acknowledge and repair the chronic racial inequities in our country. Only then will we begin the journey to a wholly racially equitable society.” Kiel strongly believed that our country has worked toward justice and equality in the Brown case, however, believed that we need to continue to improve our country through learning from the past to prepare and better our country’s future as a whole. All people, regardless of their background, should always have an equal opportunity to become educated and make the most of their lives.
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