Mourning the Brown legacy


Reverberations continue in the mainstream media following President Bush’s conservative Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision that in effect obliterated the historic Brown vs. the Board of Education edict. We are seeing apologists for the decision declaring it to be timely and necessary judicial action, eliminating a decree that has outlived its time. On the other hand, many others bemoan the dismantling of a sacred shrine.

The battle rages on. However, there is one indisputable fact, and that is the Brown decision completely changed the face of America in many ways.

First and foremost, it became the catalyst that inspired the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s, which ultimately freed millions of Black Americans from American Apartheid. This was a human transition that was so immense it is hard to imagine that it happened only a couple of generations ago.

Some of the more concrete examples of changes were:

Before Brown and the Civil Rights Movement there was one (1) Black member of the U.S. Congress. Today, there are 43, a majority of whom represent the former segregated South. There is a viable Congressional Black Caucus and a young Black man who is accepted as a leading candidate for president of the United States.

The major sports world, previously as lily-white as the snow-capped mountains of Colorado, today, to a large extent, has become dominated by Black athletes.

But, I hasten to add here that Brown and the Civil Rights Movement were not limited to changing the country for Blacks; the Movement changed the mindset toward the exclusion of others, too. Perhaps no single category prospered more than the White female.

Before Brown and the Movement there were 14 females in Congress. Today, there are 85, with one being the Speaker of the House, and another a solid front-runner as candidate for the presidency of the United States.

I contend further that the impact of Brown and the Civil Rights Movement was not even limited to the changes that it made here in America. I shall never forget the words of Nelson Mandela at the National Convention of the NAACP in New York shortly after he had been elected president of South Africa. He stated in a firm, declarative manner that the inspiration for the liberation of his beloved country came from the American Civil Rights Movement.

As for further evidence, you might remember that when those brave Chinese students made their courageous stand in Tiananmen Square, they were singing the old civil rights marching anthem, “We Shall Overcome” — thus elevating Brown and the Civil Rights Movement to the status of a universal symbol of freedom.

Matthew Little welcomes reader responses to