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Bench Memos

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The Two Sides of Brown



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Adam Liptak had a very instructive article in the Sunday “Week in Review” section of the New York Times, about the competing legacies of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954).  Is the case all about eradicating the evil of classifying people by their skin color?  Is it all about achieving the good of racial integration in our educational system by any means necessary?  The trouble is, the decision is all about both those things.  This is, to put it mildly, a problem.  Not a new one, as it has reared its head before in the busing decisions of the 1970s, and in the college-level racial preference cases since then.  But it is a problem.  One day the Court may have to revisit Brown itself, and straighten out the mess that much-too-venerated ruling created.  On the Court, the ruling is too much cited and not enough discussed, as though it were forbidden to do anything but bow and scrape in its direction.


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