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Brown v Board of Education – fifty five years later

This year we will celebrate the fifty fifth anniversary of the landmark Brown v Board of Education case successfully argued before Supreme Court of the United States. It is also very appropriate at this time to also take this opportunity to recognize the skill of the late great Thurgood Marshall who brilliantly won this case and more than fifty other cases before the Supreme Court – winning all of them.

This case changed the face of America in away unlike any other decision. The Brown case, as it is known, was not the first such case regarding civil rights argued before the court it is worth mentioning. It was just the most significant of what some would say was the final battle in the courts that had been fought by African American parents since 1849, which started with Roberts v. City of Boston, Massachusetts. It is also important to note that Kansas was the site of eleven such cases spanning from 1881 to 1949.

The case was named after Oliver Brown one of 200 plaintiffs. The Brown case was initiated and organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leadership who recruited African American parents in Topeka, Kansas for a class action suit against the local school board. The Supreme Court combined five cases under the heading of Brown v. Board of Education: Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The ultimate goal sought by the NAACP was to end the practice of “separate but equal” throughout every segment of society, including public transportation, dining facilities, public schools and all forms of public accommodations.

The Brown Supreme Court ruling determined racial segregation in public education was unconstitutional in Brown I, the first opinion. The court’s implementation mandate of “with all deliberate speed” in 1955 is known as Brown II. In 1979, twenty five years later, there was a Brown III because Topeka was not living up to the earlier Supreme Court ruling, which resulted in Topeka Public Schools building three magnet schools to comply with the court’s findings. As had been the case since Homer Plessy, the subject in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a Louisiana law mandating separate but equal accommodations for blacks and whites on intrastate railroads was constitutional. This decision provided the legal foundation to justify many other actions by state and local governments to socially separate blacks and whites.

Now that I have provided some history related to the case let me add my commentary. It has been said that as sure as things change they remain the same. First, it took 60 year to overturn Plessy with Brown and it took “with all deliberate speed” 13 years for integration to begin fully. During this period of time from 1954 to 1967 Governors blocked school entrances and actually closed schools rather than comply with the law of the land. I am not going to touch on the violence that caused President’s to send the US Army and National Guard troops to schools in order to protect the safety of those the ruling was intended benefit as a result of the Brown decision.

Since then and over time many scams have been devised to disenfranchise minorities and African Americans in particular – need I only remind you of “No Child Left Behind”. This brings us to where we are today. Schools are equally as segregated, poorly funded, dilapidated facilities, and a police presence to save, often times, the kids from themselves. The dropout rate averages 2 to 1. These are just a few issues and by any measure of academic standards or common sense – is a failure.

Let’s make sure we understand that public education was not created to develop minds rather it was intended to simply teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. It was created to maintain a permanent underclass. Now maybe the word “class” is the operative word in all of this – the haves have and the have not’s will have not. So as sure as things change they remain the same. That is why it is imperative for us to celebrate this milestone and continue to the struggle as the ghosts of so many who died for the principle that “education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair”.


Grand Ol’ Party v Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor = WTF

I am going to start by saying I am appalled by the actions of the Grand Ol’ Party’s treatment of Supreme Court Nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Since I’ve lived through segregation, Jim Crow and have experienced racism – I should not be surprised. Actually, this behavior was reminiscent of days long past when the likes of Strom Thurmond and George Wallace espoused their vision of America. The tone used against the justice during nominating hearings was such a sad commentary on the part of these “Senators” and most right wing misfits in general. I suppose the reasons for this behavior, other than the obvious, is simple: President Obama, the first black president picked her and that she is the first Hispanic in history picked to wear the robe of a justice on the high court.

Many people of this ideology, who are practicing identity politics (race baiting), have attacked Judge Sonia Sotomayor personally, professionally, and in a sense all minorities. Of course the GOP’s main issue is the 10 year old remark: a Latina’s “experiences as women and people of color” are factors that “should affect our decisions, can make better decisions than a white man”. This remark caused white men/people to call her a reverse racist but it seems to me that they are afraid of extinction as a result of this new day in American politics. As an example or maybe to prove their point they trotted out the firemen who had their reverse discrimination claim rejected by Sotomayor and two other appeals court judges. The Supreme Court overturned that ruling late last month.

Some of the words, code words, used to belittle and disrespect her were “militant, a welfare queen, racist, liberal, activist, left-wing, affirmative action baby, temperamental, nasty, and a bully”. In addition, they believe she would bring her biases and a political agenda to the bench supporting minority positions that conservatives like to use to arouse their base. They even went so far as to use Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to beat up on her. One Senator went so far as to say during the confirmation hearing – “you got lots to splain” mocking a famous Cuban American comedian. But, the worst and most disrespectful of their insults was calling her “unqualified”.

Just a little about Judge Sonia Sotomayor who has, arguably, lived the American dream. Born to a Puerto Rican family and grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx. Her father was a factory worker with a third-grade education, and died when Sotomayor was nine years old. Her mother raised Sotomayor while working as a nurse. After her father’s death, Sotomayor reportedly turned to books for solace, and she says it was her love of Nancy Drew books that ultimately led her to the law.

Judge Sotomayor graduated as valedictorian of her class at Blessed Sacrament and at Cardinal Spellman High School in New York. She won a scholarship to Princeton where she continued to excel, graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She was a co-recipient of the M. Taylor Pyne Prize, the highest honor Princeton awards to an undergraduate. At Yale Law School, Judge Sotomayor served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and as managing editor of the Yale Studies in World Public Order.
After law school, Sotomayor spent five years as Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan, trying dozens of criminal cases. Robert Morgenthau chose her for the position and described her as a “fearless and effective prosecutor.” She entered private practice in 1984, working as an international corporate litigator handling cases involving everything from intellectual property to banking, real estate and contract law.

In 1998, Judge Sotomayor became the first Latina to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, one of the most demanding circuits in the country. Serving as a federal judge for 17 years, the last 11 on the appeals court in New York, participating in over 3000 panel decisions and authored roughly 400 opinions, handling difficult issues of constitutional law, to complex procedural matters, to lawsuits involving complicated business organizations. If, no when, confirmed to the highest court in the land, Judge Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed for the Court in the past 70 years… Enough said, I could go on an on. UNQUALIFIED???

Frankly, I am vexed because the last eight years of gangsta politics, all the lies and bad decisions about Iraq, W.M.D.’s, domestic surveillance, looted the treasury, torture, rendition and secret hit squads, Katrina, running the economy into the ground, use of fear, paranoia and revenge. Not to mention the only minority faces surrounding the Grand Ol’ Party were people who reminded me of my uncle whose name was Tom. Mind you, this is the same group that championed a governor from the wilderness who embodied the definition of irrational, volatile and a scattered country-music queen without the music as the their savior. Let’s not forget that it was the last Grand Ol’ Party leader who refused, would not accept, and did not attend any of the NAACP annual conferences – that would be eight. WTF!!!

Lastly, of the 111 Supreme Court Justices to date – all have been white men but four. So I say having a court as well as all areas of government representing the faces of America is America the beautiful. God Bless America…

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