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Newswise — EAST LANSING, Mich. — May 17 marks the 70th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, which signaled the end of legalized racial segregation in schools. This historic decision marked the end of the “separate but equal” precedent and is rightfully associated with many positive outcomes. However, following Brownthe process of desegregation was simplified to focus on achieving racial balance in the classroom. In the delicate dance of seeking to achieve this, much was missed.

Michigan State University experts comment on where our education system is 70 years after this decision.

Terah Venzant Chambers is a professor of K-12 educational administration in MSU’s College of Education and an associate dean in MSU’s Graduate School. Her research interests include post-Brown K-12 education policy and urban education leadership.
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“As we pause to reflect on the 70th anniversary of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and what we have accomplished since, we must also recognize that we will never recover from the dismissal of thousands of Black educators who were fired during the implementation of desegregation.

“Even today, so many years later, we still feel the loss of these powerful educators. Their absence is not just seen in the shockingly low numbers of teachers and school leaders of color, numbers which have still not recovered to pre-Brown rates, but also, relatedly, in the rippling consequences in our school cultures, which have failed to transform at the same rate as our student population. As a result, too many students of color experience racial opportunity costs — where to successfully navigate academic success in schools where dominant cultural narratives drive expectations comes at a high price. If we are to finally deliver the true promise of Brown, we must commit to fostering school environments that are truly welcoming to, and provide high quality educational experiences for, all students.”

LaShawn Harris is an associate professor in the Department of History within the College of Social Science. Her research focuses on the histories and experiences of African Americans, particularly Black women.
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A landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, or BOE, irrevocably

changed the face of American education. Political activists and educators like Michigan State University Professor Emeritus Robert Green, litigators like Constance Baker Motley and ordinary African American families like the Bridges family of Louisiana fought long and hard for this significant milestone for civil rights. Their courageous actions helped to build momentum for a growing civil and human rights movement.

“At the same time, southerners committed to school segregation and racial apartheid as a way of life resisted the historic ruling at every turn. They closed public schools, established private education facilities for white children, created white supremacy organizations like the White Citizens’ Council, crafted political manifestos and engaged in horrific acts of violence. No doubt, the road to implementing BOE was not easy, and the human cost was certainly high. Yet, political activists’ deep commitment to eradicating racial segregation left the nation a blueprint for fighting for policies devoted to equitable education and equality and to fulfilling the promise of BOE. The nation is forever indebted to those freedom fighters.” 

John Kuk is an 1855 Professor of minority politics and urban education and policy in the Department of Political Science in the College of Social Science. His research investigates how the rental housing market perpetuates residential segregation and how economic factors influence public opinion in ways that exacerbate racial polarization.
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“Racial segregation in housing and education has stubbornly persisted; in other words, it has not declined despite various public policies attempting to address it, like Brown v. Board.  Although younger generations express a willingness to live in racially diverse communities, their preferences have not translated into actual racial integration. Continued segregation has damaging effects on multiple fronts, including unequal provision of public goods, underinvestment in city services and partisan polarization.”

Eric Gonzalez Juenke is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and the Chicano/Latino Studies program in the College of Social Science. He specializes in racial and ethnic politics, U.S. elections and minority representation, with a special focus on Black and Latino/a candidates for elected office.
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“Before Brown v. Board of Education, a state desegregation ruling in California involving a Mexican American family, Mendez v. Westminster, set the stage for the Brown ruling in 1954. The little girl at the center of that case, Sylvia Mendez, as well as many of the children affected by the Brown decision remain politically active and tour the country giving speeches to college students and the public. Seventy years ago sounds like ancient history to many students, but it’s less than a single lifetime ago. We are still in the midst of the political and social effects of this momentous decision. 

“For example, both presidential candidates this year were in elementary school when Brown was decided, and the following decades of enforcement informed their political socialization experiences and those of millions of their supporters. The political ramifications of the Brown decision also include the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, both of which kicked off a historic increase in political representation of racial and ethnic minority members of Congress and in state legislatures beginning in the 1970s. We are still living in the political currents of these momentous changes to our political and social systems and will likely do so for generations to come.”

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