Juan Williams: Don’t Mourn Brown v. Board of Education





[Juan Williams, a senior correspondent for NPR and a political analyst for Fox News Channel, is the author of “Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America.”]

LET us now praise the Brown decision. Let us now bury the Brown decision.

With yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling ending the use of voluntary schemes to create racial balance among students, it is time to acknowledge that Brown’s time has passed. It is worthy of a send-off with fanfare for setting off the civil rights movement and inspiring social progress for women, gays and the poor. But the decision in Brown v. Board of Education that focused on outlawing segregated schools as unconstitutional is now out of step with American political and social realities.

Desegregation does not speak to dropout rates that hover near 50 percent for black and Hispanic high school students. It does not equip society to address the so-called achievement gap between black and white students that mocks Brown’s promise of equal educational opportunity....

It was an idealistic Supreme Court that in 1954 approved of Brown as a race-conscious policy needed to repair the damage of school segregation and protect every child’s 14th-Amendment right to equal treatment under law. In 1971, Chief Justice Warren Burger, writing for a unanimous court still embracing Brown, said local school officials could make racial integration a priority even if it did not improve educational outcomes because it helped “to prepare students to live in a pluralistic society.”

But today a high court with a conservative majority concludes that any policy based on race — no matter how well intentioned — is a violation of every child’s 14th-Amendment right to be treated as an individual without regard to race. We’ve come full circle....

Dealing with racism and the bitter fruit of slavery and “separate but equal” legal segregation was at the heart of the court’s brave decision 53 years ago. With Brown officially relegated to the past, the challenge for brave leaders now is to deliver on the promise of a good education for every child.



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