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  • Tamara Anderson

The truth about Brown vs the Board of Education

As I sit and catch up on the stack of magazines I have let pile up due to being busy and often overwhelmed, I keep hearing the same term when it comes to race and racism. Segregation. The ills of segregation and the light of integration. The truth is we have never achieved equitable and anti-racist integration. But we have tried time and time again to achieve the popular anti-black version, which is why it fails or works without a court order.

This is not a rehash of the history that we all know. So if you are seeking that just research the actual case and the briefs written famously by Justice Warren to defend its passing (which were very anti-black). This is an observation of a reality that very few of us speak about in public spaces.

The case itself was considered a "win" for the NAACP. But for Black educators in the south, it meant the loss of work and forced migration to northern cities that quickly placed them on the Colored teaching list. And resulted in long stints of unemployment. There was also no real practice of reciprocal integration. White students attending black schools and White patrons shopping at black-owned shops and businesses. In fact, integration led to a slow but steady decline in thriving black businesses with the exception of already thriving black towns or black communities. The only exception to this rule in regard to schooling was HBCUs. Even today non-black students are welcomed and nurtured in their spaces. Cannot say the same for PWIs.

This is because the idea of whiteness holds value over blackness. And one-way integration encouraged and solidified that idea. SO much so that even today predominately white spaces have higher housing values, more funds for public education, and are seen as having less crime. Poverty is seen as black, and with that comes lower housing values, fewer funds for public education, and increased incidents of crime. Despite the fact that white Americans account for more welfare recipients then Black people. And that white on white crime is just as prevalent as black on black incidents. And that we have several laws to protect against such discrimination. But even the Equal Opportunity Act benefits white women at a rate of 70% of court cases over BIPOC individuals.

This is why mentioning segregation as being a problem without context or historical nuance is dangerous and can result in anti-black sentiment. Poverty and a lack of access are symptoms of white supremacy, not Blackness. Seldom are the conversations about how vehemently white Americans protect their white spaces, white schools, and whiteness from everyone else. No one speaks on how all-white spaces are actually more toxic then any other affinity or single race space, mostly because even in Black spaces, whiteness makes an appearance. Especially when it comes to law enforcement and capitalist systems like banking. Even today despite the Housing Act of 1968, Black families are still turned down for mortgages at a higher rate than whites.

And when we use terms like grit or saving money and raising credit scores, we forget that racist financial institutions still offer higher interest rates to Black borrowers with high scores and low debt. Because Blackness is equated with debt and irresponsibility, despite the fact that much of this is caused by the lack of generational wealth that exists for Black families due to enslavement or if they are Black immigrants from other countries, the reparations that their countries paid to their colonizers renders many with little to no financial start.

I hope that this encourages you to research the inherent problems in one-way integration. So that we can actually create reciprocal integration, and stop blaming segregation for what is wrong. Or even better create an actual anti-racist system.

As Zora Neale Hurston wrote on her 60th birthday in a letter to the Orlando Sentinel about Brown v. Board of Education, "I regard the ruling of the US Supreme Court as insulting rather than honoring my race." As I age and study it closer, I concur.

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