Brown v. Board Fails: Resegregation is Accidentally on Purpose #Brownat60

Since it’s inception the United States has enacted and supported racially discriminatory policies. On May 17, 1954, the US Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education, outlawing racial segregation in our  nation’s schools. Brown overturned the doctrine of “separate but equal,” which the Court had established in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson. Brown marked a turning point… 

Fast forward to May 17, 2014… the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education…

Nevada “rancher” Cliven Bundy and current L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling are not racist. At least that would they would have you believe. Cliven Bundy stated to CNN:

At least a half-dozen (black) people sitting on the porch, they didn’t have nothing to do.

Because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he added in comments first reported by The New York Times and later seen on video. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton.

And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.

Bundy’s “apology” to CNN was:

Maybe I sinned, and maybe I need to ask forgiveness, and maybe I don’t know what I actually said, but when you talk about prejudice, we’re talking about not being able to exercise what we think. … If I say Negro or black boy or slave, if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be (offended), then Martin Luther King hasn’t got his job done yet

We need to get over this prejudice stuff.

Donald Sterling, LA Clipper owner, also has been in the news recently. The conversation that his mistress taped included some incendiary comments.

In your lousy f***ing Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with — walking with black people

Yeah, it bothers me a lot if you want to … broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?

There is more. But you have probably already read and seen it. Then, in Sterling’s Anderson Cooper CNN “apology” he stated:

That’s one problem I have. Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people — and some of the African-Americans, maybe I’ll get in trouble again, they don’t want to help anybody.

He continued with racialized comments about Magic Johnson:

I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go in the background. But what does he do for the black people? He doesn’t do anything … I just don’t think he’s a good example for the children of Los Angeles. He would go and do what he did. And then get AIDS. I mean come on.” (In fact, Johnson has HIV, not AIDS.)

Sterling is “consistent.” CNN reported:

A top [LA Clippers] executive accused Sterling of running the Clippers with a “plantation” mentality. Federal prosecutors accused his rental company of refusing to lease Beverly Hills apartments to African-Americans. And a group of tenants accused him of “numerous discriminatory statements and housing practices.

“Actions speak louder than words, and Mr. Sterling’s actions have been consistent,” former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” on Monday.

Abdul-Jabbar, who coached the Clippers for about three months in 2000, said Sterling has “a bad reputation.”


So why lead a post about accidental on purpose segregation with Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling?! I’ll come back to them to conclude… So what is the status of segregation 60 years post Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka? In the post How can we desegregate re-segregated public schools? (again)

we wrote:

Landmark legal victories over de jure segregation in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka[1] helped to secure dramatic decreases in the racial and ethnic segregation of schools in subsequent decades, especially in the formerly segregated American South[2].  The promise of the post-Brown era proved ephemeral, however; nearly sixty years after the Supreme Court ruled that segregation was inherently unequal, American schools remain remarkably segregated by race and ethnicity.[3] Since the 1980s, the de facto segregation of schools has rapidly intensified, especially in the South and for Hispanic/Latino populations.[4] Indeed, during the 1990s the proportion of Black students in majority-White schools decreased 13 percentage points, to a level not seen since 1970.[5] This re-segregation of schools has been facilitated by weak executive enforcement of civil rights provisions and continued judicial retrenchment on school integration, exemplified by Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell[6] andFreeman v. Pitts,[7] which diminished desegregation standards and resulted in the release of hundreds of districts from their court-imposed desegregation orders.


In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1[8] dealt another blow to integration efforts, rendering unconstitutional school assignment plans that use individual student race or ethnicity as the sole factor in school assignment, punctuating the steady decline in support for school desegregation policies.[9] In the case, which was decided with Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, [10]the Court ruled that the racial balancing efforts of the Seattle and Louisville school districts, which were undertaken voluntarily in the absence of evidence that either district had deliberately practiced de jure racial discrimination, were impermissible and unconstitutional violations of the Equal Protection Clause.[11]  Consequently, districts that had been using such policies to achieve and maintain racial and socioeconomic balance across campuses were denied the primary weapon with which they had historically combated racial and socioeconomic segregation.[12]

In the Seattle student assignment plan, which was challenged under Parents Involved, students were permitted to apply to any high school in the district.[13] However, if the demographics of any school deviated from the demographics of the district as a whole (within a specified percentage), a racial “tiebreaker” was used to determine which students were admitted to the school. Thus, if a school had too many whites, admission might be restricted to only non-whites (including Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, or African Americans); if a school had too few whites, admission might be restricted to only whites. As the foregoing illustrates, the Seattle plan was concerned only with racial balance among “whites” and “non-whites,” not with the racial distribution within non-white populations. In the Jefferson County, Kentucky plan, which was challenged under the Meredith case, students were classified as either “black” or “other,” with students assigned to schools in such a way as to ensure that schools were no less than 15 percent and no more than 50 percent black.

While acknowledging the pernicious effects of segregation, the Court held in Parents Involved that the use of racial classifications in Seattle and Louisville were not “narrowly tailored”[14] to achieve a “compelling” government interest.[15] First, the Court held that there was not a compelling interest that justified the use of race in their student assignment processes.[16] In the plurality opinion, Roberts argued that while racial diversity is a compelling interest in higher education, the ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger[17] and Gratz v. Bollinger[18] did not apply to primary and secondary education, because the districts in question (i.e., Seattle and Louisville) did not use an individualized consideration of students and utilized a very limited racial perspective on diversity (i.e., “white” vs. “non-white”).[19]Moreover, the cases of Seattle and Louisville did not constitute a compelling interest because neither district had a legacy of past discrimination that the plans were designed to remedy.[20] In addition, the Court ruled that the plans of Seattle and Louisville were not sufficiently “narrowly tailored” to constitutionally justify the use of race.[21] Indeed, Roberts notes that both plans were exclusively focused on achieving demographic goals, and not towards achieving any benefit of racial diversity.[22] Moreover, the Court ruled that neither district had made a “serious, good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives,” as required under Grutter.[23] Indeed, the Court held that the districts failed to show that the use of race was necessary to meet its diversity objectives, arguing that similar effects could have been achieved without race-conscious means.[24]

So what has been the result of a series of cases ending busing, desegregation orders, and ban on the use of race in Parents Involved? Together they have led to the re-segregation of public schools. Dr. Gary Orfield and The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA released a series of studies this week analyzing the most recent data on segregation. Here is a sample of what they have found:

Changing U.S. Demographics and SCOTUS Transform School Segregation Landscape 60 Years After Brown v Board of Education Segregation Increases after Desegregation Plans Terminated by Supreme Court

North Carolina’s Black Students Increasingly Isolated in Schools after Many Desegregation Plans Dissolved Racial and Economic Isolation Intensifies Despite an Increasingly Multiracial Enrollment.

New York Schools Most Segregated in the Nation UCLA report identifies alarming trends throughout the Empire State.


2013-10-24 18.49.42

My selfie with UCLA’s Gary Orfield after his AERA Brown lecture in DC

Latina/os and Segregation

What is that state of segregation for Latina/os and more specifically immigrant students? The Civil Rights project found that California is the most segregated state for Latino students and has little to Celebrate 60 Years After Brown v. Board of Education. In the post Breaking News: School Segregation Study Strikes A Nerve, I discussed a peer-reviewed study we authored last year that focused specifically on Latina/os. I wrote:

Our study Expansive School Segregation in Texas: Predicts Accountability Rating has caused a stir. (Click here for study) The Spanish media was first on the story when Univision produced Study Shows Triple Segregation Persists in Texas Schools. Then the AP picked up the story and the study went national.

The AP story reported:

The study by education professors at The University of Texas at Austin found that minorities, English language learners and poor kids have become concentrated into low-performing schools and districts, decreasing their chances to overcome these impediments. In two-thirds of the schools that are intensely poor, English language learners are the majority of students.

“Our research revealed that schools where students are segregated by race/ethnicity, (socio-economic status) and language are overwhelmingly rated as low-performing,” said Julian Vasquez Heilig, associate professor in the College of Education. Those schools also are staffed with some of the lowest-skilled teachers turnover tends to be high, he added.

In conclusion, we have a Sterling/Bundy court system and legislatures in the United States. Our legislative and judicial bodies claim that their policies are race neutral, but they are well aware of the disparate impact of segregation in the data, and they continually shrug their shoulder in denial (ala Bundy and Sterling) that their action or lack of action is racist or without racial intent (similar to the argument being used to suppress voting), when in fact, prima facie, they do. The powerful legislative and judicial bodies in the US accidentally on purpose fomented resegregation. As I have written about previously on Cloaking Inequity, this accidentally on purpose intent is the case with segregation, criminal justice, college access, and even high-stakes testing (I plan to do a series on #brownat60 next week on each of these topics). The American judicial system and legislatures have taken an overt Jim Crow system of racial prejudice and discrimination and just moved it underground to a covert system that continues to have disparate impact.

p.s. Don’t forget to join us tomorrow morning (5/17) on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry between 10-12 a.m. EST as we discuss Brown v. Board at 60. For more info see the post: @ProfessorJVH with @MHarrisPerry on @MSNBC @MHPshow in NYC 5/17 #brownvboard60


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Click here Cloaking Inequity’s posts on segregation




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  • M. Crabtree: I couldn’t agree with you more. Everything you’ve said resonates. Eracisim is part of the answer, but, “class issues” are a huge part of this and even “intellectual issues” regarding education as was willingly shared by MHP … “same sex all girls school” for her daughter(s). I wrote a Masters Thesis on Vouchers and School Choice many years ago. At the time, one proponent expressed “voice” as a way of sorting out the differences that you M. Crabtree discuss: Voice of the child (parents), Voice of school professionals, and voice of “society” – expressed in policy, courts etc. The choice debates with “parent voice” as the only criteria has put American education out of balance in my opinion – I agree with you! And, I agree with Julian, (In) Equity is “Cloaked” whereby things that were once see as discriminatory as he said on the MHP show, are now called “civil rights” !!!!


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  • Hi Julian. I have been reading for several months now and I want to say thanks so much for all of your blogposts on a variety of issues. However, I really feel that this issue that you have written several posts about (the resegregation of American schools) is a multi-faceted, essential issue at the heart of the future success of the US public school system. My problem, however, is just in blaming the courts for resegregation. Although the biasedly “unbiased” decision-making of the courts is a national tragedy and they are becoming ever more divided along party lines, which is seen more and more in the re-segregation, anti-“affirmative action” rulings by courts at all levels, there are other, deeper, more racist factors at play here. It is time for our nation to look at why we are pushing for the resegregation of our schools. In this post, you talked about “Parents Involved,” which, like so many other “parents’ rights groups” are carefully and strategically contributing to the resegregation of public schools by cloaking their decisions under the guise of “parental choice.” This is a tool used to basically “condemn” students who are triply prone to segregation to low-performing schools, and the irony is that it sounds like it is “fairer” since all students are given a “choice.” But often, the choices–charter schools, magnet schools, and private schools with scholarships/vouchers–merely benefit middle and upper-class families. thus, the choices are expanded only for wealthier people, not poor, English-language-learning, and minority families. Even a lot of the parent groups (i.e. Parent Revolution) are staffed by white, private-school graduated, 20 or 30-somethings who, misty-eyed and idealistic, believe that they are “helping to save public education” by encouraging concerned groups of parents to pull “parent trigger” laws and exercise their choice, thus expanding the breadth and scope of this movement. Can we just step back a moment and realize that sometimes parents are not acting unbiasedly (like judges should!) and might actually be making decisions that stem from their own deep-seated prejudices and selfish desires? The idea of valuing diversity and exposure to multi-ethnic peers, teachers, and traditions over going to the middle class, “good” school (which is usually only good because the socio-economic level of the families attending it is higher…and there are fewer minorities) seems to be dying (or maybe it never existed in the first place). Or people only believe in it in theory, but once they become parents, they forget the “idealism” of their youth and enroll their middle-class kid in private school so they can “build their networks” with the “right” kind of children. All this to say, there is racism and a desire for re-segregation at many levels, not just the courts.


  • Yes I will watch, MSNBC, you and Melissa Harris-Perry. Correction it was not the 50 year anniversary, but rather 60 year. Of course Mellissa knows about her two church members killed 49 years ago during the Voting Rights Marches in Selma, and it was during those times that Professor Robert Brown led a group of African American “tent city” residents to the highway between Selma and Montgomery, AL to protest the killing of “a mother” Ms. Viola Liuzzo, who was shot with a shot gun from another car by KKK members while driving students back to Selma after the final historic March. An FBI informant was in the car with the KKK members and did nothing to stop the killing. Professor Brown took the tent city residents from Greene County in the only time he went to the Selma protests as they in Greene County had their own boycott and protests going on. Brown told me in a taped interview: “That was just too much, killing that woman, a mother, coming back from the March with Dr. King so I loaded a bus and we went.” Dr. “Professor” Brown was the Principal of the Tishibee, AL, Black segregated school at that time. The Tent City residents were former tenant farmers who’d been kicked off their land for trying to register to vote. Displaced Black farmers lived in Tent Cities across Alabama existed because they refused to leave Greene County- their home.


  • Some good news, the Justice Alliance including the Advancement Project has filed 3 complaints under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act for Newark, NJ., Chicago and my former home New Orleans. All three cities have been impacted and the suit claims discrimination in the use of federal funds, alleging discrimination in all three cities.

    I watched a new program with the Brown family of the Brown v. Board of Ed. decision tonight and one family member asserted correctly, I believe, that desegregation as intended by the Supreme Court 9-0 decision never really happened because of the immediate backlash that began in 1954 going forward until today.

    As I continue on a historical research project located in Alabama I’m seeing the same evidence of “backlash” Black and White leaders in the thick of things in the thick of Civil Rights in the 60s and 70s thought would be overcome. Evidence of all sorts tells us differently. See, for example the Atlantic Monthly article on Brown v. Board in Tuscaloosa, AL for example. In my research a courageous WWII Vet who fought for our country in Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, and even helped liberate a Jewish concentration camp, tried his mightiest to see his county school district as a live up to Brown v. Board of Ed., and NOT DO SO!

    Professor Robert Brown is 91 now and the legacy, in his case of facing down George Wallace himself, as the first African American superintendent of schools in Alabama tells the same disturbing story of Racism being highlighted with this 50 year anniversary.


    • We will discuss this tomorrow on MSNBC. Tune in!


      • Reaction to MSNBC program- directly after.

        As Melissa said, “We could go on for 4 hours, but, the network won’t allow me.” Next step needs to be a special that goes on for at least for an hour!

        Yes, Julian, the issue that “privatization” allows for segregation “practice” to be named “civil rights” is being un-“cloaked” and thank you. The dilemma that working locally, even with “choice” programs to undo segregation, while on the one hand can work locally in some places, can be turned on their head and used destructively in others with respect to “justice” is a conundrum thus making it difficult to employ the pronouncement to act locally and think globally.


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