“We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling.
History: My thoughts on this historic(?) day.
Although we look at this landmark Supreme Court decision as a turning point in providing the same, or equal, education for blacks as whites, there is a larger argument that is rarely discussed. By forcing integration of blacks into white schools, African American students actually lost more than they gained. Although separate, and inferior, in structure, black schools were able to teach one subject not taught in white schools: black history. Once the schools were integrated, black history was not taught other than the whitewashed version of slavery, and then it was very limited in what was taught, meaning, told as a small part of the white man’s success. The lack of education to their own history caused much to be lost in the education of Black students. Consider this, we, white students, take learning our history for granted. Consider if we were kept from learning the history we hold so dear to our patriotism and rightful place in our country. Imagine if the history we were taught was watered down to a version that tells very little truths. Imagine if our history was taught as an insignificant afterthought in a larger story of history. I know some will say it is watered down, but I’m not talking about quantity. I’m talking about truthful history and the quality of the events of those truths. What if we were taught our history in a way that essentially erased the contributions, heart, and fight that was necessary to overcome during horrible periods of our history? Furthermore, if, by watering down the atrocities suffered by our ancestors, such as the Native American or Irish experiences have been, or the lack of education about the horrors during the labor movement has been, or how the stories of the Revolutionary or Civil War experience in our history has been altered depending on what side your ancestry falls, an eraser effect would diminish some of our pride as Americans, yes? Or, what about if we were taught a lie concerning the enslavement of our ancestors or the black code laws that legally kept us bound to slavery? The lie being that we were weak and needed to be or felt safe in our enslavement. Wouldn’t that diminish our feeling of pride in our place in our nation’s history? But more importantly, what if our white history reduced or eliminated the strength required and demonstrated over and over again, that which was necessary to endure and persevere against all odds during violent and degrading times? These aspects of Black history are never taught in primary or secondary education and certainly not credited with African Americans throughout American history, but yet, are very much a part of Black history. So, white people continue to believe the white lie that those who were enslaved were okay with being slaves because they didn’t run or revolt. But they did, all the time, if they could, safely. But more importantly, the American institution of slavery was so brutal in its abuse that fear of severe punishment, if not death, held them tightly shackled to their enslaver. White people, are empowered by the knowledge of our place in our American history. We feel pride in what we accomplished to build this amazing nation. We are rare, as people of this country, in that we still look to our history and honor the founding of our nation with pride. We hold our Founding Fathers to a place in our history of reverence, even though they were flawed and morally criminal in their own treatment of their fellow Americans and other human beings. We honor every step in the journey to this day, today, the day that marks a decision by our Supreme Court that changed the conditions by which African Americans were provided an education. Imagine if, instead of integrating the students, this huge decision in our Constitutional history had provided equal educational resources, books written by scholars of both, black and white history, and equal school houses, plentiful enough to educate all who wanted to learn. Imagine how empowered Black students would feel growing up knowing the heroes in their ancestry as we white students felt learning about George Washington and other white heroes in our nation’s history. What if African Americans were taught the sacrifices made and the truth concerning how southern plantations grew plentiful and profitable because of the African knowledge in farming the products that made so many southerners weathly? Fact: Had the enslaved not taught their enslaver how to grow tobacco, rice, sugar, and cotton, the history of the United States would be a very different story. Integration robbed blacks of equal empowerment by the lack of knowledge of their own historic successes. Knowing your people prevailed and contributed to the accomplishments of the growth of this nation would go far in empowering any group of people to become “equal.” Look at what that empowerment did for whites, who came here to this land in order to escape oppression in their native lands. We need to truly look at this historic decision honestly. Yes, this was a huge legal win, but was it the right thing to do?