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Court’s ruling a profound loss to America




Where does it end?

Now that the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that race cannot be considered by the nation’s schools in efforts to integrate classrooms, what’s next?

Is the Court going to tell black people that hereafter they will have to move to the back of the bus? Will the court say to blacks they have to stay out of “white” restaurants, theaters, health facilities, housing, swimming pools? What of equal employment opportunity, and all the other things we all do each day without a second’s thought, regardless of our skin color or our race or religion?

These questions arise from the court’s 5-4 decision last week in a case involving the Louisville school system. In an opinion written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the court declared that schools no longer can consider race in efforts to achieve or maintain integration.

The decision seems to gut the famed 1954 decision by the Court in the case known as Brown v. Board of Education. In that decision, the court declared the nation’s segregated schools provided unequal education and were unconstitutional.

At that time Louisville had a school system that was rigidly divided by race. State tests showed that Louisville operated both the highest and the lowest scoring schools in the state. Louisville, partly under federal court guidance, set about a decadeslong effort to assure equal educational opportunities for all students. The long effort has seen a lot of movement and transfer of both students and teachers, curriculum changes, turmoil among both parents and students. All in all, however, there has evolved a widely shared view among Louisville citizens of all races that the school effort is succeeding.

Instead of declaring Louisville’s effort to be wrong, Justice Roberts should have praised the city’s effort to improve educational opportunities for everyone within its metropolitan borders. But quality of the education effort clearly was not on the Court’s mind. The ruling comes from a Supreme Court that was changed by appointments made by President George W. Bush, and affirmed by the U.S. Senate. The President and the Senate both sought judges who will please the nation’s political right wing, and that is what the nation now is stuck with. Senators and President Bush are equally responsible for whatever happens now.

Louisville is not going to abandon its efforts to build a better community. School and community leaders are looking for ideas on how to proceed. One idea is to integrate schools along economic lines, with efforts to see that children of low-income families have access to good schools.

When you look back upon the turmoil the nation faced after the 1954 court decision to end racial segregation in the schools, we must be fearful of what might happen now.

Does the Supreme Court expect the nation’s black population to stay silent if it is told to accept loss of the many gains they have made in the past 50 years?

America must not accept the Court’s ruling that would do so much wrong to so many. Frankly, we do not know how to overturn the court’s decision; it may be that we have to do some amending to the nation’s constitution. If so, let us do without delay.

This is the week of July 4th, the time we celebrate our nation’s independence. As we do so, we also celebrate our Bill of Rights, and all the wonderful things that go with the phrase “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” We fear the Supreme Court has taken away the meaning of those words for many bright but black high school students who may now have to switch to schools with less challenge, a move that might close out access to leading colleges, to more rewarding lifetime careers. This is a profound loss to Louisville, to Kentucky, to America.

Where does it end?


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