50 years later, Brown ruling keeps us united

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

The Brown vs. Board of Education decision rendered 50 years ago this week

put the nation on the right track in dealing with racism.

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However, we should use this anniversary as a time not to look at how far we have come but how we can go even farther.

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled against racial segregation in the nation's public schools. The Rev. Oliver Brown of Monroe, Kan., who was black, did not think it was right that his daughter was denied access to her neighborhood school because it was a white school. The NAACP agreed, and plaintiffs from South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia also joined the court action.

Many of those commenting on this 50th anniversary are applauding the victory for civil rights. Opportunities for blacks and other minorities have grown immensely, even if we still have a distance to go.

Critics say more needs to be done. They say blacks still are not getting the kind of education they deserve.

Many urban areas still remain segregated in a sense, with whites attending schools in the suburbs and blacks in poorer schools downtown. Wealth, achievement and education gaps between the races also remain.

It is true that America is not perfect, but it is also true that our country has improved a great deal since 1954, as far as race relations is concerned. And for that achievement, to some very large degree, we have Brown vs. Board of Education to thank.

History is a process in which yesterday's accomplishment can easily be undone by tomorrow's failure. Therefore, we need to do more than applaud such an accomplishment. We need to use it as a building block for a better future for every child.

In actuality, though, Brown vs. Board of Education was the first major step taken toward that great self-evident truth, "all men are created equal."