The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Supreme Court upholds racial inequality

Jul 2, 2007

The Supreme Court last Thursday ruled that race could not be used as a factor in school districts – even when it’s used to maintain or achieve racial balance and equality.

In doing so, the Court has put its legalistic stamp of approval on a further reactionary degradation of society.

The original Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954 was the recognition by the Court at that time – and by the ruling class it represents – that the black movement was in full swing, and was in fact TAKING the rights that the system was refusing to give. By 1954, the year of the ruling, the fights against Jim Crow had already included sit-ins, registration drives, freedom rides, and a city-wide bus boycott in Baton-Rouge, Louisiana in 1953 that successfully desegregated the buses there.

Brown appeared to recognize the right of black children to have an education equal to that of white children. But in fact, the Supreme Court hoped with the Brown ruling to slow down the movement. It told the black population that they should stop taking to the streets and look to the legal system for change – not immediately, but with “all deliberate speed.”

“All deliberate speed” stretched from weeks, to months, to years – to decades. And when the black population got tired of waiting for what was promised – it exploded. First, in Birmingham in 1963, they faced down Bull Connor’s dogs and fire hoses; then the explosion spread to Harlem in 1964, Watts in 1965, Detroit in 1967, and to countless other places in countless other ways.

Faced with that explosion, in fear for its system, the ruling class finally opened up its purses – and that’s when the floodgates opened for the social programs: not only money for schools, but Medicaid, Medicare, unemployment, and many others.

But still, nothing fundamentally was changed. Brown did not call into question the CLASS division of the educational system in this country, and neither did any of the social programs. This meant that the fundamental inequality in the schools was allowed to remain: between those schools with lots of money and resources, and those with few or none.

People may have felt they had won something. In any case, the movement subsided after the 1960s. As soon as that happened, money began to drain back out of the working class areas, both black and white, and flooded back into the rich areas – mostly white. Social programs were dismantled, one by one. And money for schools disappeared.

We’re left with metropolitan schools that are segregated in reality if not legally: poor and mostly black schools in the cities, inadequate working class schools in some near suburbs, and wealthy schools in mostly-white wealthy suburbs. The quality of the education flows the same way: poor, mediocre, and excellent.

The latest Supreme Court ruling is not only a recognition that the movement of some students from one school to another will make little difference in the towering inequality of the overall school system. It’s the recognition that people are not fighting back and challenging that reality today. It’s the declaration that those gains of the 50's and the 60's have been overturned. And it’s the declaration that the state apparatus is ready to defend the ruling class’s attempts to make it even worse for us.

It’s the mark that we’ve been quiet for way too long.