Goodbye, Brown!


On June 28, 2007, the Bush Administration’s Supreme Court slapped down 53 years of the nucleus for civil rights progress in this country — Brown vs. the Board of Education. As Sen. Barack Obama, candidate for the U.S. Presidency, so aptly put it, “Without the Brown decision, I would not be where I am today.” It is true that no single movement defines the initiation and success of the Civil Rights Movement as much as the 1954 historic Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.

The Brown decision was the key that unlocked a new generation of freedom fighters in this country. The repercussions from the decision were many, but the basic manifestation was the energizing of Blacks into mass proactive movements to demand changes. From Rosa Parks to Martin Luther King to Stokley Carmichael to H. Rap Brown and many others who are nameless, the decision inspired many to emerge in open protest and defiance.

On the other hand, it prompted bitter resentment from the Southern leaders of the day — those who cherished the antebellum Old South. Their first attempt was what they called “interposition” in which they attempted to privatize public schools to avoid integration. When that didn’t work, they resorted to changing the political climate. Their first attempt in that regard was to create a new national political party that they called the Dixiecrat Party, with the late Strom Thurmond as their presidential candidate.

When that became a flop, they hastily attached themselves to the Republican Party — abandoning their longtime loyalty to the Democratic Party since Lincoln, a Republican, freed the slaves.

Their party switch strengthened them politically, but it was insufficient to halt the onrush of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights of 1965. These bills created heretofore-unprecedented opportunities for Blacks, women and others of color in this country.

With the support of our old friend, Clarence Thomas, some may see the overturning of the Brown decision by the Bush Supreme Court as a 50-year delayed payback.

However, I am afraid that the genie cannot be put back in the bottle at this point. While nullification of Brown may give a few racists and other “neocons” some temporary solace, it cannot turn back the clock.

Matthew Little welcomes reader responses to