Busing Redux: Misunderstanding Brown v. Board

McCrummen makes the same point in her January 12 Post article, describing Wake County as

the center of a fierce debate over the principle first enshrined in the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education: that diversity and quality education go hand in hand.

I suspect that neither McCrummen nor her editor has actually read the Brown decision, since neither that decision nor any of the briefs for the plaintiffs, nor their oral arguments, said anything about “diversity,” much less “enshrined” it as a fundamental principle.

The day after McCrummen’s article the Post printed a letter from Education Secretary Duncan manifesting the same mistaken belief that Brown enshrined “diversity.” He found it “troubling to see North Carolina's Wake County School Board taking steps to reverse a long-standing policy to promote racial diversity in its schools,” promised an investigation, and called for “a conversation among educators, parents and students across America about our core values.” Duncan obviously does not believe “our core values” include what Gunnar Myrdal famously called the “American Creed,” the principle that individuals should be treated without regard to race.

How odd that Duncan so readily admits what the Wake County busing advocates make such an effort to disguise: that the busing to which they are so devoted is really all about racial balance, with “economic integration” being the camouflage they hope will allow it to sneak in undetected. You’d think the secretary of education would know that if Wake County’s prior purpose was what he says it was and still recommends -- “to promote racial diversity in its schools” -- it would be unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling in Parents Involved, which invalidated classifying students by race and using that classification in their school assignments.

Ultimately, however, what is most disturbing about the liberals’ Brown-worship is that they so fundamentally misunderstand their deity. They worship Brown; they worship “diversity;” so they are forced to conclude that Brown sanctified “diversity.” It didn’t.

As Chief Justice Roberts stated in Parents Involved, what the Court held in Brown is precisely what the plaintiffs’ attorneys asked it to hold:

the position of the plaintiffs in Brown was spelled out in their brief and could not have been clearer: “[T]he Fourteenth Amendment prevents states from according differential treatment to American children on the basis of their color or race [...].” As counsel who appeared before this Court for the plaintiffs in Brown put it: “We have one fundamental contention which we will seek to develop in the course of this argument, and that contention is that no State has any authority under the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to use race as a factor in affording educational opportunities among its citizens.” There is no ambiguity in that statement. And it was that position that prevailed in this Court [...].

Not only was “diversity” not “enshrined” or even mentioned in Brown, it was actually rejected as a goal by the plaintiffs. “The only thing that we ask for,” Thurgood Marshall argued,

is that the state-imposed racial segregation be taken off, and to leave the county school board, the county people, the district people, to work out their own solution of the problem to assign children on any reasonable basis [other than race] they want to assign them on. [p. 47]