Segregation is ascendant
Saturday marked the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.
The court, unanimously, held that denying black children access to whites-only schools violated the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law. It upended the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, which held that the equal protection guarantee was met if facilities were "separate but equal."
The decision was a ground-breaking victory for civil rights, liberating millions of children from substandard facilities and educational programs. Public school integration subsequently caused great social upheaval and unrest in many cities with segregated schools, but on the societal level that was the price of just and long overdue justice.
Now, however, segregation is ascendant. According to the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, school segregation steadily has increased since 1990, and that black students are more segregated than they were in 1970. In 2011, the center reported, only 23 percent of black students attended a white-majority school. The trend also is true for Latinos, now the largest minority group in the country.
Although there has been some good progress regarding graduation rates for minority students - up by 15 percentage points for Latinos and 12 points for blacks over six years - substantially educational disparities remain. Minority students are far less likely to have access to advanced math and science classes, for example.
The experience of the 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education demonstrates that government-mandated segregation was just the most obvious barrier to equal opportunity, and that much work remains to achieve it.