Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) marked the 58th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision with a campaign-themed statement that branded President Obama as Brown and conservatives as Plessy.
The 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision, which was overturned by Brown, allowed state-sponsored segregation and “separate but equal” Jim Crow laws.
“There is an even deeper irony in that both courts (Brown and Plessy) looked at the same language in a constitutional amendment – the Reconstruction’s 14th Amendment with its mandate of equal protection and due process under the law – and saw two different meanings,” Jackson said. “That means that words do not make their true meaning and interpretation self-evident. They mean what the politics of the day want them to mean. They are interpreted in a political context – which is exactly what each Supreme Court did in 1896 and 1954.”
The congressman said that’s why “the election in 2012 is so important.”
“The current mood of conservatives in this country is more in sync with Plessy and anyone nominated to the Supreme Court by a conservative President will more than likely reflect that legal spirit,” Jackson said. “On the other land, anyone nominated to the Supreme Court by President Obama will more closely follow the spirit found in the Brown decision. So, in many ways, when it comes to legal thought, the election in 2012 is again a choice between the spirit of Plessy and the spirit of Brown.”