Brown vs. Board of Education is a remarkable case that took place in 1954 in Topeka, Kansas. The decision made in Brown was unprecedented since it was the first unanimous judgment against racial segregation of school children. The Supreme Court, therefore, marked that the separation was unconstitutional, even if children obtain equality in the quality of education. This legal proceeding became a cornerstone for the further integration and elimination of racial aversion in American society.
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The decision has supporters and critics, both of which emphasize the importance of de jure segregation, removing and providing students of all races with equal opportunities. Nevertheless, critics question Brown’s concern about the necessarily low self-esteem and quality of education in schools for black children. Besides, challengers of the decision indicate that de facto segregation was not wholly unrooted.
Most modern American schools are still racially homogeneous and preserve discrimination not only based on skin color but also a family’s income level. The absence of the constitutional right to education leads to the inability of federal courts to provide equal funding to the schools. What is more, racism is experienced not only at the primary education level but also at the level of graduate and postgraduate studies (Truong, Museus & McGuire, 2016). Therefore, the effectiveness of the Courts decision, made in 1954, nowadays seems to lose its actuality, even though there are no more legal prohibitions to enroll students depending on their race.
Still, there are pieces of evidence of affirmative actions being launched by the government to promote desegregation and create an integrated community, in particular, in schools, colleges, and universities. However, what was right in the 1970s finds no confirmation in contemporary reality. Some scholars, along with Truong et al. (2016), believe that most public schools and universities are confined in their attempts to create equal educational opportunities regardless the race, gender, income level. Many interviews conducted by Kupenda (2018) and Nieto (2015), prove that both school children and postgraduates suffer from biased reasons concerning their skin color. Therefore, the current paper states that the initial aspirations of Brown concerning the issue of racial segregation in the educational system were challenged by the realities of the XXI century.
Racism and Segregation in the Modern Education System
Brown vs. Board of Education made a significant achievement by proving segregation based on racial principles illegal. Notwithstanding this point, racism was not completely eradicated from the education process. Schools, colleges, and universities can no longer refuse to enroll black and Latino children, though, there are other ways to separate white students from all others. The claim finds confirmation in the research paper of Nieto (2015), who asserts that nowadays, one could hardly name an example of a truly integrated school. Besides, the rates of racial and socioeconomic segregation in modern schools are becoming as high as it has never been before.
According to Kelly (2019), in the nearest future, the situation is supposed to become even worse. That is because of the Trump administration’s policies that are not aimed at putting pressure on school districts to decrease the rate of racial heterogeneity among the students and teachers. Apart from political assumptions, there are also economic reasons as well as strong prejudices of teachers and professors towards the intellectual capacity of white and non-white students.
The most evident reason for the continuation and strengthening of the division on racial principles lies in income inequality between the representatives of the black and white population. As Kelly (2019) puts it, “race and social class” impact the teaching quality (p. 127). In 2019, 76 schools in Alabama were acknowledged to be weak enough to provide a decent educational level to the students (Kelly, 2019, p. 127). Therefore, the separation appears not in the form of direct prohibitions to enroll color children at school but in the form of the inability to provide students of all races and economic backgrounds with education of equal quality.
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The reason for these results lies in the fact that less economically prosperous families could not afford to live in areas with better schools. Schools that provide higher standards of education have higher funding and are located in wealthier neighborhoods, where live those who belong to the upper-middle and more senior economic classes. Economic conditions force the poor to stay in the suburbs where children could not obtain the same education benefits as in the wealthier areas.
In the view of Kelly (2019), the income rate of people depends on race as well. Therefore, the way towards the demolition of segregation in schools should begin with equality in income levels. The representatives of ethnic minorities and other races should receive an opportunity to move to the parts of a city or state with more advantageous conditions for education.
Preconceptions and Personal Beliefs
Another reason why the results of Brown vs. Board of Education fail to eliminate segregation is the habit of educators to count color children as inferior and less intelligent. This statement seems not to fit the reality of the current century in which due to globalization, all the boundaries and divisions, including racial ones, seem to be erasing. Nonetheless, the conclusions of many research papers prove the opposite. Many tutors still believe that white students tend to be smarter, and during the classes, they put more effort into white rather than color classmen. Kupenda (2018) has conducted interviews with university lecturers who reckon that it is common to give a higher evaluation to white students.
What is more, the respondents admit that black students must prove their competence, whereas the white ones are by default believed to be highly qualified (Kupenda, 2018). The difference lies not only in the estimation of students but also in the attitude towards them during the class. For instance, one of the interviewees said that he usually does not ask black students in order not to confuse them in case they do not know how to respond (Kupenda, 2018).
Segregation on the racial ground is harder to achieve in higher education because students are free to move wherever they want, and they have a chance for a scholarship based on academic merits. Nevertheless, even black doctoral students admit that they regularly face racial prejudice that constrains their ability to get a degree. During the research, Nieto (2015) conducted interviews with more than 25 doctoral students who suffered from their race.
Students reveal that sometimes there were unable even to publish postgraduate programs and work with the mentors was not as profound as white students had (Nieto, 2015). The scholar also reckons that these problems at the level of higher education come from the failure to create an integrated community of children of all races, nationalities, and languages at schools (Nieto, 2015). Hence, on the level of higher education, segregation is obviated while racism is not.
Brown’s case dealt only with the legal aspect of the issue and could not influence the bias of educators. The inferiority of black people was actively promoted among the descendants of the Brown generation (Kupenda, 2018). Consequently, it could be inferred that if a subject or a topic is objectively tricky for understanding, teachers recall themselves the message, that was obtained as juveniles, about the superiority of the white people.
The current paper examines the case of Brown vs. Board of Education, which aimed at the elimination of segregation on a racial basis at schools. Despite the legal success of the case, the realities of the XXI century show that discrimination still takes place. Thereby, Brown’s argument was, to some extent, artless and suitable solely for the precise situation that happened in the 1950s. There are two main conditions that Brown was unable to anticipate and, therefore, to take into consideration. The first one deals with the income inequality and inability of the poor to send children to better schools located in wealthier areas.
The second reason includes teachers’ convictions on the superiority of white students, due to which the black ones are deprived of attention and belief in success. Segregation and racism discrimination remain significant trouble in modern society, which could not be solved only through legislative acts because the cause of the problem is grounded deeply into the culture. Integration and equality in the education system could be achieved exclusively when people manage to overcome economic inequality and stop judging each other’s intellectual abilities based on skin color.
Kelly, W. (2019). Resistance to Brown v. Board of Education–The Gardendale experience. The Journal of the Alabama Academy of Science, 90(2), 126-134.
Kupenda, A. M. (2018). Bringing Brown v. Board of Education out of retirement. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. Web.
Nieto, S. (2015). Revisiting the high hopes and broken promises of public education: Still an uncertain future. In M.J. Feuer, A. I. Berman, & C. Atkinson (Eds.), Past as Prologue: The National Academy of Education at 50. Members Reflect (pp. 213-220). National Academy of Education.
Truong, K. A., Museus, S. D., & McGuire, K. M. (2016). Vicarious racism: A qualitative analysis of experiences with secondhand racism in graduate education. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 29(2), 224-247.