18 May 2004


Today is the 108th anniversary of the Supreme Court's 7-1 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson supporting the constitutionality of racial segregation. The argument, that it violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, was defeated with the assertion that equal, but separate, resources would still treat citizens equally. The economics of dual facilities hastened the breakdown of that argument.

And yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education. There, the Supreme Court decided that "separate but equal" in schools was detrimental to black students and therefore unconstitutional.

It took an embarrasingly long time for the logic behind Plessy to break down.

A couple of interesting historical points taken from Tavis Smiley's discussions:

  • One argument in Brown was against allowing the Supreme Court to reverse its Plessy decision, and therefore effectively change the meaning of the Constitution. If the Constitution wasn't treated as a living document, where would we be now?
  • The communist countries were using America's institutionalised racism to embarass it in the international arena. Whenever the U.S. accused them of human rights violations, they would respond with photos of KKK lynchings. No one should be above international policing.
[ posted by sstrader on 18 May 2004 at 1:47:01 PM in Culture & Society ]