Last updated on: 10/5/2007 | Author:

Is Desegregation in Public Schools Still Necessary to Achieve Racial Equality?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

In Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court, in a 9-0 decision written by Chief Justice Warren, held:

“Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system…

We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

1954 - Brown v. Board of Education, 347 US 483

PRO (yes)


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote in a May 17, 2004 press release titled “50 Years Later: Brown v. Board of Education” that:

“So why is it that on [Brown v. Board of Education’s] 50th anniversary, a pall hangs over our celebration of this epochal decision?

It is because noxious racism, while no longer polite to express openly, has become harder to fight because it is now often cloaked in decorous manners and insidious language that do not openly betray ongoing discrimination. It is also due to racial isolation, poverty, unemployment, inadequate health care, and lack of opportunity, all of which serve to hamper the achievements of minority students who are increasingly found in school districts beset with these and other social ills…

The goals of integration and of a more just society that inspired that earlier generation of reformers and civil rights activists continues to this day, as the ACLU fights to preserve the integration remedies that were the result of Brown.

May 17, 2004


Chris Hansen, JD, ACLU Senior Attorney, stated in his May 17, 2004 interview with the ACLU that:

“You have to say that the abolition of governmentally sanctioned discrimination is progress. In terms of progress in schools, it is accurate to say there are still an awful lot of schools out there with student bodies that are virtually all African-American or all white. That suggests that we haven’t quite accomplished what we wanted to accomplish…

The ACLU rejects the notion that quality and integration are different goals. We are committed to achieving quality, integrated education for all students both because it brings educational benefits to all students. Quality integrated education is also a matter of simple justice.”

May 17, 2004


Charles Willie, PhD, Eliot Professor of Education Emeritus at Harvard University, was quoted in Hanna Bordas’ Summer 2006 article “Desegregation Now. Segregation Tomorrow?” in Ed. as having stated:

“Whites are now the most segregated group, particularly outer suburban whites whose children are being severely isolated from learning experiences that would prepare them to live, work, and participate in public life in a society that will become majority nonwhite in their lifetimes if existing trends continue.

Without racial and/or socioeconomic enrollment fairness guidelines, school systems will drift back into segregated and unequal schools that are not only harmful to students of color, but also to white students. Diversity is an enhancement factor in education at all levels.”

Summer 2006


Julian Bond, Chairmain of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), stated on July 16, 2006 at their 97th Convention that:

“Racially-integrated schools improve the critical thinking of all students, advance race relations in the community, and promote tolerance and other positive values in coming generations. Today white students remain the most racially isolated group, while blacks are left behind to attend inferior schools. Nine out of ten intensely segregated minority schools are concentrated poverty schools. There are almost no schools that are extremely poor with a very high level of achievement. Martin Luther King Jr. was obviously right when he said in 1963, ‘[W]e must come to see that de facto segregation in the North is just as injurious as the actual segregation in the South.’

That is why the NAACP has filed suit in federal court challenging a Nebraska law that created three Omaha school districts – one white, one black, and one Latino. Not only does this legislation flout Brown’s abiding principle, it also denies the abiding reality – separate schools are not equal.”

July 16, 2006


Gary Orfield, PhD, Co-Director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, and Susan E. Eaton, EdD, author, wrote in their Mar. 3, 2003 article “Back to Segregation” in The Nation that:

“The most recent statistics–compiled, analyzed and released by the Civil Rights Project, at Harvard–reveal that America’s schools are now in their twelfth year of a continuing process of racial resegregation. The integration of black students, the new study shows, had improved steadily from the 1960s through the late 1980s. But, as of the 2000-01 school year, the levels have backed off to lows not seen in three decades.

It’s true that the Supreme Court decisions and the enforcement of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that followed the Brown v. Board of Education ruling forced the South to desegregate. The region went, between 1964 and 1970, from almost complete segregation to becoming the most integrated region. After 1974, however, school integration efforts outside the South were stymied by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Milliken v. Bradley, which prohibited heavily minority urban systems from including nearby suburbs in desegregation plans. School districts in the North usually run coterminous with municipal borders. Thus, Northern school districts usually reflect housing segregation rates, which are highest there. In the 1990s, a new set of decisions by a more conservative Supreme Court required that many large (and successful) desegregation plans be dismantled across the country.

Segregation is so deeply sewn into America’s social fabric that the media rarely see it. And policy-makers, social thinkers, pundits and ‘education reformers’ steer around the gross fact of segregation as if it were heaven-ordained, without insidious cause or acceptable cure.”

Mar. 3, 2003

CON (no)


Tamar Jacoby, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, wrote in the July 21, 1999 article titled “Beyond Busing,” published in the The Wall Street Journal that:

“Black children’s reading and math scores showed no appreciable improvement as a consequence of busing. Supporters ignored this, focusing instead on the fact that white children’s performance was not suffering… As for the claims that racial mingling would teach black and white children to get along, that too proved elusive in many schools where students resegregated as soon as they got to the lunchroom, and inequality in academic performance often only deepened white kids’ prejudice.

Meanwhile, outside the classroom, integration – a more natural kind of integration – was slowly spreading across the land.

What all this proves – something we should have known all along – is that artificially engineered racial balance won’t achieve the larger promise of real social integration… But as the psychologist Gordon Allport warned decades ago, the process only works when the people involved are social equals who have reason to respect each other independent of race.”

July 21, 1999


Walter E. Williams, PhD, John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, wrote in the Sept. 11, 2002 article “Poor language, poor thinking” on that:

“At one time, there was racial segregation. If a black wanted to use a water fountain, he was denied, often by law. And he was similarly denied by law from attending certain schools. Today, none of that is true. In turn, that means there is no school segregation. Because an activity is not racially integrated, a better word is heterogeneous, doesn’t mean that it’s segregated. More importantly to the issue of education, there is no evidence anywhere that supports the civil-rights vision that black education excellence is impossible unless white children have first been captured to sit beside black children in school. From my view, to contend that race-mixing is a necessary requirement for black academic excellence is racially insulting.”

Sep. 11, 2002


Herbert Kohl, Director of the Institute for Social Justice and Education, wrote in the May 23, 1994 of The Nation that:

“The Brown decision has always troubled me. It was a valuable corrective to the horrors of legally enforced segregation, but the decision that separate schools are inherently unequal has racist implications. Are separate schools for Catholics or Jews inherently unequal? Are excellent African-American schools (there were many of them in public school systems before desegregation) inherently unequal because they are separate?

One simply does not have to join into other people’s worlds in order to be a decent citizen and a compassionate member of society so long as the choices one makes do not deprive other people of their freedom; or insult, unambiguously exclude or oppress them.

The question of integration has to be rethought. After all, what kind of world are poor children, especially if they are African-American or Latino, being asked to integrate into, and on what terms and at what cost?”

May 23, 1994


Clarence Thomas, JD, Supreme Court Justice, wrote in his 1995 concurring opinion in Missouri v. Jenkins that:

“Given that desegregation has not produced the predicted leaps forward in black educational achievement, there is no reason to think that black students cannot learn as well when surrounded by members of their own race as when they are in an integrated environment. Indeed, it may very well be that what has been true for historically black colleges is true for black middle and high schools. ‚ĶBecause of their distinctive histories and traditions black schools can function as the center and symbol of black communities, and provide examples of independent black leadership, success, and achievement.”



Sheldon Richman, Senior Fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation, wrote in the Aug. 2004 issue of Freedom Daily that:

“In Brown the unanimous court ruled that ‘separate educational facilities are inherently unequal’ and therefore do not satisfy the Fourteenth Amendment’s requirement of ‘equal protection of the laws.’ It is not my intention here to examine the decision itself. Suffice it to say that many believe the decision was not rooted in the Constitution or other law, but rather in doubtful sociological and psychological considerations. Chief among these is the assertion that black children cannot get a quality education if surrounded only by other black children…

Brown’s sacred status has made criticism of it, at best, limited. Because of this, it is little understood that the ruling has had devastating consequences for the education of black children. Considering that the ‘achievement gap’ in education between black and white is real and widely lamented, the neglect of Brown’s culpability is unfortunate…

Brown and the follow-on cases, despite presumably good intentions, moved many black children from excellent schools filled with dedicated adults into schools where they were regarded as alien invaders and where teachers often thought of them as fit only for low-level jobs. In the social engineer’s eyes, this was racial progress. (Today fewer than half of black students graduate.) Black Americans are still recovering from such beneficence.”

Aug. 2004