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“With All Deliberate Speed” or “At Once” Means “Never”

October 31, 2015

Yesterday, Sumeer Rao, a writer for Colorlines whose mission is to cover race matters “...from the perspective of community, rather than through the lens of power brokers”, wrote a brief post noting that October 29, 2015, was the 46th anniversary of the Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education ruling by the US Supreme Court. While less celebrated than Brown v. Topeka, it was intended to underscore the urgency to put an end to dual school systems and make it clear that “all deliberate speed”, the language in Brown, meant now. Rao summarized the decision as follows:

In Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education—which was decided on this day in 1969—the Court ruled to underscore their previous mandates in Brown and Brown II and ordered immediate desegregation of public schools. Noting that the “all deliberate speed” language in Brown enabled Southern states to procrastinate, the Court’s decision took no chances, saying, “The obligation of every school district is to terminate dual school systems at once and to operate now and hereafter only unitary schools.”

Brown effectively put an end to Jim Crow laws and practices because it overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, an 1896 case that allowed for “separate but equal” facilities… a phrase, like “adequate schools”, allowed separate substandard facilities to be designated for blacks because some whites had the same kinds of facilities. Ten years after Brown Congress passed the Civil Rights Act which reinforced the court ruling and seemingly put an end to legalized discrimination.

In a fifteen year period during the time I was growing up in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, our nations leaders passed legislation that was intended to put an end to our country’s legacy of racial discrimination. 46 years later, little has changed. Based on my personal experience as a child, student, teacher, public school administrator and parent, I find that the only way one can overcome prejudice is to share a seat in a classroom, a playground, a church pew, or a neighborhood with someone of a different race or culture. When one experiences an individual from a different race or culture, prejudice quickly disappears and that person’s humanity shines through. I know that moving from where we were then and how we are now to a world where we stop thinking of different races and cultures as “the other” will not happen now and cannot be forced. I fear that our current housing patterns and stereotyping will prevent us thinking of different races and cultures as “the other” making it impossible to achieve the kind of world our forefathers and religions of all stripes want us to live in.

  1. Elyssa
    November 1, 2015 at 11:38 am

    Excellent post!

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