Inequality Still Pervasive 60 Years After ‘Brown v. Board’
Nearly 60 years have passed since the historic Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., decision was passed that ruled segregation of white and Negro children in the public schools of a state solely on the basis of race, pursuant to state laws permitting or requiring such segregation, denies to Negro children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Prior to this decision, states had argued successfully that “separate but equal” doctrine announced via Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) supported segregation in public education.
The ruling led to the integration of schools and made particular headway across the South causing many hate groups, such as the White Citizen’s Council, to be formed. The objective was to deal with the inequality of education proffered by schools between blacks and whites via segregation.
Unfortunately, albeit a valid objective, integration being employed as a vehicle for solving inequality in education received by blacks when compared to whites, this outcome may have not been achieved.
Using today’s standards, it is lucidly obvious that there is a problem with the rate at which African American youth perform academically when compared to other ethnic groups. The estimated black graduation rate is 15 points lower than the official completion rate. This means that approximately 65 percent of blacks and Hispanics leave high school with a diploma.
Although official statistics show that white and minority high school completion rates have converged since the early 1970s, these estimates exclude those who are in prison. If GED recipients have been considered as dropouts over the past 35 years, there is limited convergence in high school graduation rates between whites and African Americans. In fact, rates are high due to black males obtaining GED credentials in prison.
The fact is that being a black male who is poorly educated is a recipe for underemployment and incarceration. Including men in prison and the military, almost 40 percent of 25- to 54-year-old men with no high-school diploma have no job. For African Americans specifically, more than 30 percent overall and almost 70 percent of high school dropouts have no job.
Brown versus the Board of Education was a seminal piece of history. But the vast numbers of young black men — the one in three who will spend some time incarcerated — will likely have no high school diploma and, thus, not see the benefits of educational equality supposedly attained by this decision.
–torrance stephens, ph.d.