Anniversary of the Brown Decision: Celebration, Confession, and Commitment

May 17 is the 63rd anniversary of the famous Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. That landmark of our nations' legal history declared that racial segregation in public education is unconstitutional. It combined five cases from Kansas, South Carolina, Delaware, Virginia, and Washington, DC to show that there was no such thing as "separate but equal" in public education. Thurgood Marshall argued the case before the Supreme Court and eventually became the first African American Supreme Court Justice. This milestone of justice is truly a something to celebrate. The video below provides a summary of this historic milestone. 

While the Brown decision is something to remember and celebrate, it is also cause for national confession. In many places that practiced segregated education, including Virginia, a system of "Massive Resistance" was developed to avoid implementing school integration. It took years and even decades for many localities to comply with the ruling. In one of the most infamous examples of massive resistance, officials in Prince Edward County, Virginia chose to close pubic schools for five years (1959 - 64) before being forced to integrate. Since then many parts of the country, especially in urban areas, have re-segregated schools along economic and racial lines. The second video below is one example of this reality in comparing two high schools - one from the Northern Virginia suburbs and the other from the city of Baltimore. The injustice of this kind of re-segregation is obvious even though it is wide spread.

If we are to implement the Brown decision in both spirit and practice, it will require renewed commitment to integrated public education. The author and educational advocate Jonatan Kozol has devoted his life to calling our nation to this commitment. The video below is an excerpt from an interview with him from ten years ago, but it is just as relevant today. I conclude with a quote from the video that summarizes the call to both confession and renewed commitment when it comes to integrated public education in our country today, "We all say in church and synagogue that our children are of equal value in the eyes of God. And in the eyes of God I'm sure they are, but not in America." On this 63rd anniversary of the Brown decision, may we lift up our voices, our votes, and our prayers to work for greater levels of justice and equality  in pubic education.