Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education: was it worth it?
5/22/2014, 6 a.m.
Released just this week is another study, “Brown at 60,” from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, proclaiming “great progress, a long retreat and an uncertain future” since the decision.
“The (current) Supreme Court has fundamentally changed desegregation law, and many major court orders have been dropped,” the report reads, citing recent rulings that have chipped away at Brown. “Our statistical analysis shows that segregation increased substantially after the plans were terminated in many large districts.”
With that dire assessment, was it all worth it?
To any sane person, of course it was. In education, millions of students of all races have seen unparalleled achievement under reforms begun by Brown, and the removal of societal indignities such as separate drinking fountains and Jim Crow travel on buses and trains — to say nothing of being lynched for attempting to vote — goes to the heart of fulfilling the promise of America.
But it takes time, and constant, determined agitation, a sharp-witted 90-year-old on the phone from New York reminds me.
“There’s always reason to be despondent,” he says, “and there’s always a reason for hope.”
Robin Washington of Duluth, Minn., writes frequently on the history of Civil Rights Movement. He is producer of the PBS documentary “You Don’t Have to Ride Jim Crow!” telling the story of the Supreme Court’s 1946 Morgan v. Virginia decision, one of the cases laying the groundwork for Brown v. Board of Education.