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In the Shadow of Brown

Short Version: mp3, 2.61 MBs, 3:15
Long Version: mp3, 3.38 MBs, 4:13

[Col. Recorded 5/2/04]

It has been half a century since *Brown vs. Board of Education* became law, and the racial segregation of public schools was outlawed, and desegregation was ordered "with all deliberate speed."

When *Brown* was first decided, I was not yet born. Yet, despite the law which ruled segregation unconstitutional, my elementary, junior high and high schools were institutions with over 95% — perhaps 98% — Black populations.

Whites, whether as teachers or students, were quite rare, over a decade after *Brown* became law.

Years later, in my private studies, I learned that *Brown* wasn't decided because of the educational needs, or violated rights, of Black citizens, but because of the ideological needs of the U.S. government, which was trying to present a false face to much of the Third World, many of whom were horrified at the images of dark-skinned people brutalized by racist cops for trying to get a decent education.

In 1952, US Secretary of State Dean Acheson submitted a letter to the US Supreme Court, noting that "the continuation of racial discrimination is a source of constant embarrassment to this government ... and it jeopardizes the effective maintenance of our moral leadership of the free and democratic nations of the world."(1)

*Brown*, then, was a propaganda victory, designed to defeat rhetorical attacks from the communist countries, which argued that the U.S. was a violent, racist nation.
It has been over 50 years since *Brown*, and ghetto schools from coast to coast, from North to South, are as segregated as they were in 1953. They are segregated, not by law, but by practice, as a class; poverty-stricken, with few resources, increasingly poorly-trained, poorly-paid and demoralized teachers, and few educational expectations or outcomes of excellence.

*Brown* may be law on the books, but in the lives of millions of dark-skinned kids, it's barely an asterisk. It is meaningless.

The brilliant legal scholar, Derrick Bell, has long argued that *Brown* represents a prime example of what he calls "interest convergence", or an occasion when Blacks may benefit, but in order to do so, whites must benefit. Thus, under *Brown*, almost half of Black educators, especially in the South, lost their jobs. Whites were hired to replace them and also for the swell of private white academies that sprung up in opposition to the *Brown* decision.

Today, schools are but training grounds for prisons, and in an age of computerization and increasing outsourcing, they are struggling to find economic and social relevance.
Writer Jonathan Kozol has written tellingly and touchingly of the deplorable conditions of urban schools, which are Black and Brown sinkholes of societal rejection; yet little has changed.

The political elite loves to kiss babies when they run for office, or even to offer empty words about "our children" when discussing them, but from coast to coast, 'from sea to shining sea', urban public schools are places not of learning, nor of refuge, but of societal rejection and dismissal.

Their conditions and lack of sufficient resources reflects the subtle truth that they are engaged in a war of ignorance, and forgetfulness about them and their futures.
They are citizens, yes; youthful citizens who may be safely ignored, for they have no voice, and no vote in the system.

Nothing is expected of them. They are consigned to the bitter fringes of the ghetto cash economy of all against all for sheer survival.

Let the bourgeoisie, and the Black middle class celebrate *Brown*. Meanwhile, let the rest of us ignore it.

(Notes: (1) Lerone Bennett, *Confrontation: Black and White* (Penguin, 1965), pp. 187-88)

Copyright 2004 Mumia Abu-Jamal

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Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa

Text © copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.