by Caroline Cox
This year marked the 50th anniversaries of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Freedom Summer, but these victories have not erased many persistent racial inequalities in the United States. In a discussion about race, education, and the legacy of Brown v. Board decision at the 2014 ACS National Convention, Tomiko Brown-Nagin, the Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History at Harvard University, explained how the world has changed in the years after these civil rights landmarks.
While Brown-Nagin argued that the United States has managed to achieve the promise of Brown in many respects, these successes are qualified. The decision slowly eliminated de jure segregation, but de facto segregation continues and even thrives in the post-Brown world. Brown-Nagin explained that public support is “shifting away from support for an affirmative movement of students across neighborhood lines, away from even having students of different races in the same school building.”
The majority of people, according to Brown-Nagin, agree with the principle of racial equality. But this belief does not in and of itself mean that inequality no longer exists. This is not the inequality seen during the Warren Court, but rather are the result of “social conditions related to race” that are largely ignored because “people don’t understand them as related to racial animus.”
The way to bring the ethos of Brown into a new era, Brown-Nagin argued, requires the formation of new coalitions and policies that can address inequality but are not necessarily race-conscious. Race does matter, but in a time when Parents Involved has made addressing racial inequality in schools more difficult, Brown-Nagin made clear that the real solution is “to be creative and innovative in the policies that we choose.”
ACSblog hosted a symposium on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Freedom Summer, and a collection of blog posts on the legacy of Brown v. Board. Watch the brief interview with Tomiko Brown-Nagin below or here.