Sunday, November 3, 2013

Talking Points #7: Free Response on “Readings" on Brown v. Board of Education

A) Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center. Separate Is Not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education. Smithsonian; Zamore Design; Morgan Stanley. Web. 01 Nov. 2013.

Wise, Tim. "Between Barack and a Hard Place." Ring of Fire. Web. 01 Nov. 2013.

Herbert, Bob. "Separate and Unequal." New York Times 21 Mar. 2011. Op-Ed: A27. Print.

What is the relationship between the historical issues you see in the website on Brown v. Board of Education and the contemporary issues of race that Bob Herbert and Tim Wise raise here?
There is an interconnected relationship between the historical issues that I see in the website on Brown v. Board of Education and the contemporary issues of race that Bob Herbert and Tim Wise raise. All three deal with the issues of equality and segregation in society, although each differentiates in forms of equality/segregation.

Historical Issues
May 17, 1954 marked a pivotal moment in history. The case of Brown v. Board of Education sparked the initiation of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, with the segregation of race in education being deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
    Although the Civil War abolished slavery in the United States, racial division continued to be an issue in society. Segregation developed as a result of the unjust and unfair mindset of some white Americans. These white Americans valued "whiteness," thus laws and regulations in each state began to surface promoting segregation. Even with the existence of the Reconstruction Amendments, much inequality developed. The Amendments posed new equalities to blacks, but segregation itself did not conform to these laws, but rather, acted contrary to them. Voting rights, although one of the many steps taken in helping to support complete freedom for African Americans, was dismissed, therefore not enabling freedom, but limiting it. This occurred as a result of the actions of whites who had chosen to oppress blacks, the "white supremacists." Segregation was also enacted through the Jim Crow Legislation laws, as well as political campaigns. The Civil War had eliminated the issue of slavery, yet society's treatment of African Americans proved that everything was far from equal.
    Efforts were taken by African Americans, Chinese Americans, Jews, Irish Americans, and whites [who had chosen not to oppress], to strive for racial equality. Many of the cases presented in court ruled in favor of segregation. The case of Plessy v. Ferguson ruled that segregation was not unconstitutional because there "was no discrimination." Yet segregation itself was wrong, unequal, immoral, and everything discriminatory. A series of cases then appeared in both federal courts and the Supreme Court surrounding the major issue that segregation created involving citizens' rights to an equal education. Communities fought back to the unjust treatment that they faced in schools. Public schooling was viewed by Americans as an essential element in establishing democracy. Yet segregation set so many children apart from this "entitlement."    Some judges then ruled in favor of racial desegregation in schools. African Americans took laborious efforts to construct a legal plan that would combat segregation. Howard University School of Law and NAACP were among the institutions that aided in promoting this battle. Lawsuits arose that challenged segregated school systems. Charles Hamilton Houston, the Vice Dean of the Howard University School of Law in 1929, was one of the most influential figures of the Civil Rights Movement. He took considerable efforts to put an end to this discrimination against blacks. Houston's personal experience with racial prejudice as an artillery officer influenced him into the practice of law, and he took on a number of civil rights cases. Houston also created a program at the Howard University School of Law that integrated civil rights into the curriculum. He trained world-class lawyers, as well as mentored and graduated Thurgood Marshall (*pictured). Houston helped to found the National Bar Association, and was also a leader of the NAACP. Marshall argued a number of cases that were successful.
    NAACP's Legal Defense Fund won a significant amount of cases, drawing attention to the issue of segregation in all grade levels: Kindergarten through university. The Brown v. Board of Education case first appeared in Topeka Kansas, when Oliver Brown joined the lawsuit. Brown's daughter, Linda, was forced to walk a series of blocks to reach the bus stop that would take her to the black elementary school. The white school was only seven blocks from her home, but Linda had to travel over a mile to attend school because she was black. Following the NAACP's input, Brown attempted to enroll Linda into the white school, but was denied. A lawsuit followed, with Brown among fourteen parents from Topeka acting as plaintiffs in the case. A federal court did not rule in favor of the plaintiffs, but their appeal was taken to the Supreme Court.
    Brown v. Board of Education was a compilation of cases throughout the nation that involved the issue of segregation in America's schools. Thurgood Marshall was among the attorneys that argued for integration in education. In 1953, Earl Warren was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Warren supported desegregation in schools, whereas his predecessor, Fred Vinson, had not previously ruled in favor of it. A unanimous decision was reached, and Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned. Segregation was separate and not equal, therefore it was deemed unconstitutional. Desegregation in schools then resulted.

Contemporary Issues of Race
    Bob Herbert argues in "Separate and Unequal" that segregation still exists in present-day society, but not in the same way as it had during the Civil Rights era. Herbert calls to mind a rather different outlook on segregation: separate schools for the rich and poor. Although race can be linked to this form of segregation, its connection is primarily due to income. Privilege affects the academic environment, thus influencing the academic success of a student. This is quite similar to the issue that Allan G. Johnson raises in "Privilege, Power, and Difference," where he argues that privilege and class can either positively or negatively affect an individual. Herbert states that financial stability creates segregation in communities. The issue today is not based on race in schools, but rather on income's effects on black and Hispanic children in poor public schools.
    Tim Wise argues that evidence of racism and discrimination against blacks continues to remain. Wise states that whites do obtain certain privileges, whereas society may not see the potential of blacks due to particular styles. Society demands that blacks meet certain standards, even if they are equally or more competent than white peers. Wise also argues that while the nation is moving forward in terms of combating racism, it is false for society to behave as if it is truly in a post-racial state.

"Between Barack and a Hard Place": Ring of Fire Interview with Tim Wise
What does Wise have to do with Brown v. Board of Education?
    Wise speaks of the landmarks that have been established in history dealing with racism in the United States. While Wise relates that there have been a series of events that have helped to promote equality and desegregation (for example, Barack Obama being elected president), he believes that Brown v. Board of Education was the biggest event, as part of the Civil Rights Movement.    Similar to Brown v. Board of Education and the stress for equal opportunity in schools, there is a quote by Wise concerning equality in society: "If we're going to have a truly equal opportunity society, we have to have a truly equal opportunity society, and the evidence that we will have accomplished that is when we begin to see the research and the evidence on discrimination... begin to diminish" (Wise,

"Separate and Unequal" by Bob Herbert
How do the issues that Bob Herbert raises shape how you think about Brown v. Board of Education?
    The main concern that Bob Herbert raises in his article is that schools are segregated based on income within a particular community, and race is sometimes involved. After reading "Separate but Unequal," I did understand the financial issue that Herbert was addressing, and how it can deal with race. However, this form of segregation is different form the segregation that existed during the Civil Rights movement. The issues that Herbert raises makes me refer to the issues of equality from the era of Brown v. Board of Education, but the form of segregation (in this case: financial) is still different from racism.

As I examined each piece in regards to the case of Brown v. Board of Education and inequality in education, I took note that many of the readings that we have discussed in class could connect to the text.
For example:
  • Allan G. Johnson's "Privilege, Power, and Difference" - The three titular elements of Johnson's text can be found in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, the Tim Wise Interview, and Bob Herbert's "Separate but Unequal."
  • Jonathan Kozol's "Amazing Grace"- Racism and poverty are major issues in these readings.
  • "Safe Spaces" by August, Kennedy, and Vaccaro - Inequality and unjust treatment result from oppression, and there is a need for safe spaces and an integrated curriculum in schools.
  • Linda Christensen's "Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us" - Society creates these major issues, and action is needed and action is taken to combat oppression.
Additional References:
Johnson, Allan G. Privilege, Power, and Difference. McGraw-Hill; 2nd edition, 2005. Print.

Kozol, Jonathan. Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation. Harper Perennial, 1995. Print.

August, Gerri, Megan S. Kennedy, and Annemarie Vaccaro. Safe Spaces: Making Schools and Communities Welcoming to LGBT Youth. Praeger, 2011. 1, 83-100. Print.

Christensen, Linda. "Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us: Critiquing Cartoons and Society." Rethinking Schools 01 Feb. 2007: 126-137. Print.

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