Doubts about Brown v. Board

In the January 13, 2015 Washington Post, Valerie Strauss calls attention to an obscure Supreme Court case that she says may have a greater impact on the educational achievement of black children than any other case since the 1954 Brown v. Board decision.

She republishes a lengthy analysis of the situation by Richard Rothstein.  She often republishes Richard Rothstein’s articles.  As usual, Rothstein has assembled a mountain of data in support of his position; however, unfortunately, a mountain of data matters little if one’s premises are wrong.

The latest suit is entitled Inclusive Communities Project v. Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.  It would seek to compel states to disperse subsidized housing units in prosperous areas and away from locations where there are already any concentration of black people.

It relies on a theory that was first enunciated at the Supreme Court level in Brown v. Board, and it’s this theory which is now giving me doubts.  It’s a theory that the NAACP Legal Defense Fund first raised in one of the cases underlying Brown v. Board; the name of that case was Briggs v. Elliott.  There was a dispute within the NAACP Legal Defense Fund as to whether or not to use this argument at all, but Thurgood Marshall insisted; which fact gives me pause now to wonder how this may have influenced the rest of his career, and how it may possibly relate to notion that the NAACP has failed to live up to its name.

Brown v. Board was not really about “separate but equal,” a legal doctrine, but rather about a social doctrine that says wherever black folk are concentrated, they will despair.  There will be high levels of crime.  There will be high levels of violence.  They will create slums out of whatever dwellings are given to them.

I reject that definition of the nature of the black man.  It’s predictive, it’s prescriptive, and it denies black people the most basic freedom of all:  free will.

No one can remain a slave forever to the dictates of one’s circumstances and the dictates of other people’s opinions.  The black man is as free as anyone else to claim his autonomy, to rule himself, to order his own life, to pick up and use the principles and tools of prosperity, to thrive and to seek to excel.

What do you think?

Valerie Strauss, A Supreme Court case that public education advocates should be watching
Lawrence Hurley, Supreme Court divided over housing discrimination case
New York Times editorial, ‘Discrimination With a Smile’
Charles Lane, A modern segregation battle
(Lane is “a [Washington] Post editorial writer.”  There’s a good deal in that piece to take issue with from a Free Speech Handbook POV.  This is consistent with my impression that, in the media, we have many bad role models.)

Originally posted 2015-01-24.

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