Cultural Revolutions

Erosion of Democracy

Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the famous decision of the Warren Court which held that racial segregation in the state public schools violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of the “equal protection” of the laws, turns 50 on May 17, 2004.  The inevitable celebrations of the decision in the nation’s law reviews and popular media will underscore its landmark character and will generally hail it as a triumph of enlightened constitutional jurisprudence.  Insofar as Brown contributed to the emerging national goal in the 20th century of removing racial stigma and lead to a recognition that all ought to enjoy equality of opportunity—and, to an undeniable extent, it did—the decision deserves the praise that will be heaped upon it.  Brown has its tragic side, however, and much of that is likely to be ignored in the expected paeans.  To be fair, some articles have appeared in such august magazines as the ABA Journal, the profession’s leading monthly, lamenting that Brown and its progeny could not assure racial integration in the nation’s public schools and that, in our urban centers, at least, because of the white flight to the suburbs that Brown inadvertently encouraged, minorities still make up the majority in the public schools.  Brown may have successfully led to a change in the culture, but, in the end, it did...

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