The Supreme Court Just Took Us Back to the Days of Segregation
A 5-4 decision guts the vital Brown vs. Board of Education case that attempted to desegregate public schools.
In a 5-4 decision authored by Chief Justice John Roberts on Thursday, the Supreme Court told local school districts that they cannot take even modest steps to overcome residential segregation and ensure that schools within their diverse cities themselves remain racially mixed unless they can prove that such classifications are narrowly tailored to achieve specific educational benefits. But they swear they haven't overturned Brown v. Board of Education
. Writes the Chief Justice:
Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin. The school districts in these cases have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again.even for very different reasons. For schools that never segregated on the basis of race, such as Seattle, or that have removed the vestiges of past segregation, such as Jefferson County, the way to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis ... is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
To which, in sad dissent, Justice Stevens responded:
There is a cruel irony in The Chief Justice's reliance on our decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U. S. 294 (1955). The first sentence in the concluding paragraph of his opinion states: "Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin." This sentence reminds me of Anatole France's observation: "[T]he majestic equality of the la[w], forbid[s] rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread." The Chief Justice fails to note that it was only black schoolchildren who were so ordered; indeed, the history books do not tell stories of white children struggling to attend black schools. In this and other ways, The Chief Justice rewrites the history of one of this Court's most important decisions....Justice Stephen G. Breyer
The Court has changed significantly since it decided School Comm. of Boston in 1968. It was then more faithful to Brown and more respectful of our precedent than it is today. It is my firm conviction that no Member of the Court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today's decision.
, who wrote the principal dissenting opinion, was dismissive of Justice Kennedy’s proposed alternatives and asserted that the court was taking a sharp and seriously mistaken turn.
Speaking from the bench for more than 20 minutes, Justice Breyer made his points to a courtroom audience that had never seen the coolly analytical justice express himself with such emotion. His most pointed words, in fact, appeared nowhere in his 77-page opinion.
“It is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much,” Justice Breyer said.
In his written opinion, Justice Breyer said the decision was a “radical” step away from settled law and would strip local communities of the tools they need, and have used for many years, to prevent resegregation of their public schools. Predicting that the ruling would “substitute for present calm a disruptive round of race-related litigation,” he said, “This is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret.”
Justices John Paul Stevens
, David H. Souter
and Ruth Bader Ginsburg
signed Justice Breyer’s opinion.
The court's 185 page opinion is here
Who ultimately paved the way for the real problem of activist judges? Think back to 2004
Fifty years after the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation, President Bush on Monday acknowledged that "habits of racism" still linger in America, and his Democratic opponent John Kerry said the nation's schools remain "separate but unequal."
Bush offered his assessment of race relations during a visit to Monroe Elementary School in Topeka, Kan., the symbolic epicenter of the desegregation movement. The school's efforts to exclude black students led to the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on May 17, 1954, in the case known as Brown v. Board of Education.
The 50th anniversary Monday of the court ruling forced racial issues to center stage in the presidential campaign. A few hours before Bush's visit, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry offered his views on race relations at a ceremony outside the Kansas state capitol here.
Both candidates agreed that more needs to be done to reach the goal of educational opportunity for all. On the campaign trail, Kerry advocates more federal spending on education; Bush stresses his support for standardized testing and local control of schools.
"While our schools are no longer segregated by law, they are still not equal in opportunity and excellence," Bush told a mostly white crowd of about 4,000 outside the Topeka school. "Justice requires more than a place in a school. Justice requires that every school teach every child in America."
Although the 1954 ruling failed to deliver on its promise of ending school segregation, Bush said the decision was a milestone because it removed the legal underpinning for racial discrimination.
"Fifty years ago today, nine judges announced that they had looked at the Constitution and saw no justification for the segregation and humiliation of an entire race," he said. "The system of racial oppression in our country had lost its claim to legitimacy, and the rising demand for justice would not be denied."
The Kerry campaign marked Monday's anniversary with a prepared statement blasting Bush's record on civil rights. The statement accused Bush of effectively shutting down civil rights enforcement at the Justice Department and of nominating federal judges who "want to roll back civil rights."
In one full term, this Court has severely curbed local efforts to promote racial diversity in schools, upheld a right-wing ban on a necessary medical procedure for women, curbed students' free speech rights, crippled Congress' ability to keep corporate money out of political advertising, prevented taxpayers from challenging the constitutionality of Bush's faith-based initiatives, made it almost impossible for women to prevail on claims of longterm sex discrimination . . . and they're just getting started.
As much as I hate to say it, get ready for Roe vs. Wade to get the same treatment as Brown vs. BoE. If not for the plethora of reasons listed above, then consider the fact that the majority of justices on the SCotUS are Catholic
, and it should be clear.