Fifty years ago yesterday, the United States Supreme Court decided that, "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." The landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education outlawed segregation in classrooms across the nation. This decision came with little precedent in the realm of national social awareness. It preceded the bulk of the civil rights movement in the United States and asserted the government's role in protecting the rights of the disenfranchised minority against the prejudices of the majority.
Despite this, many educational institutions still remain effectively segregated 50 years later. Public schools across the nation remain predominantly black, white, Latino, or otherwise, because of the composition of their communities. Brown v. Board may have knocked out the legal basis for segregation, but it has not been able to change nor substantialy mitigate the socioeconomic basis that determines the composition of public and private schools.
The anniversary of this case should remind us, as members of a community divided in many ways by socioeconomic lines, of the importance of carrying forth the ideal of a more integrated United States. While that will certainly not occur overnight, it is our hope that members of the University of Chicago community will use the spirit of the Brown v. Board decision as a starting point toward achieving that goal. Despite the difficulty of the task ahead, we should use the anniversary of Brown v. Board to remember that efforts within the community, such as the student-led tutoring programs here, can help start larger changes towards progress.