International Herald Tribune Editorial - Resegregation now
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: June 29, 2007
The Supreme Court ruled 53 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated education is inherently unequal, and it ordered America's schools to integrate.
On Thursday, the court switched sides and told two cities, Louisville and Seattle, that they cannot take modest steps to bring public school students of different races together. It was a sad day for the court and for the ideal of racial equality.
Since 1954, the Supreme Court has been the nation's driving force for integration. Its orders required segregated buses and public buildings, parks, and playgrounds to open up to all Americans. It wasn't easy, but the court never wavered. In many of the most important cases it spoke unanimously.
On Thursday, the court's radical new majority turned its back on that proud tradition in a 5-4 ruling written by Chief Justice John Roberts. It has been some time since the court did much to compel local governments to promote racial integration. But now it is moving in reverse, broadly ordering the public schools to become more segregated.
In an eloquent dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer explained just how sharp a break the decision is with history. The Supreme Court has often ordered schools to use race-conscious remedies, and it has unanimously held that deciding to make assignments based on race "to prepare students to live in a pluralistic society" is "within the broad discretionary powers of school authorities."
Roberts, who assured the Senate at his confirmation hearings that he respected precedent, and Brown in particular, eagerly set these precedents aside.
The nation is getting more diverse, but by many measures public schools are becoming more segregated. More than one in six black children now attend schools that are 99 percent to 100 percent minority. This resegregation is likely to get appreciably worse as a result of the court's ruling.