Tuesday, May 18, 2004
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On the anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education
Whenever I start thinking, "Drezner, you've had a good run as of late," I always reflect on my colleague Danielle Allen. She is a full professor in both Classics and Political Science, and was recently appointed Dean of the Humanities here at the U of C. Allen holds two Ph.D.'s -- one in government from Harvard, one in Classics from Kings College, Cambridge. She has published two books -- one of which is The World of Prometheus: the Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens. I've perused enough of The World of Prometheus to know that although I may be a decent writer, I don't quite have her chops. She's also a published poet and documentary film producer. Oh, and she was a 2001 recipient of a MacArthur genius grant.
I could live with all of this if it weren't for two facts:
The reason I raise all of this is that Danielle Allen has written an essay commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education that is probably better than anything I could gin up. Here are the highlights:
UPDATE: Eugene Volokh is another academic who's smarter than me and has some interesting things to say about Brown.
“We ought to make his energy our own and turn...to confronting the evils of the drug trade as well as the inequities and hypocrisies of our current responses to it.”
This does not sound good. The last thing we need is to continue with our ludicrous war on drugs. We must educate our youth to make wise choices---but it’s ultimately their problem if they do something stupid. The cost of outlawing mind altering drugs is not worth it. Treating drug use as a medical problem is the preferable response. Locking up addicts and turning drug selling into a lucrative activity has caused enormous grief. When will we ever learn? Also, are you interesting in help third world nations like Afghanistan? If so, they you should advocate for drug decriminalization. Our dumb drug laws threaten the existence of weak countries that are trying to improve the lives of their citizens.posted by: David Thomson on 05.18.04 at 04:21 PM [permalink]
David, I hope you're being deliberately obtuse. It is obvious to me that the writer encompasses all that you've listed, and more. Open up, man. Allow some people to think from more elevated vistas.posted by: Jim Putnam on 05.18.04 at 04:21 PM [permalink]
“David, I hope you're being deliberately obtuse. It is obvious to me that the writer encompasses all that you've listed, and more. Open up, man. Allow some people to think from more elevated vistas.”
You might be right. However, I wish the author had gone into a little more detail than merely complaining about “the inequities and hypocrisies of our current responses to it.” Why the ambiguity? Is Danielle Allen hesitant in making a clear and blatant statement regarding our stupid drug war?
I also believe that the Democrat Party deserves much credit for the early days of the Civil Rights movement. Republicans basically sat on their hands. And yet, it was the Republicans that should have been listened to after the 1960s. The Democrats turned to radical political solutions that have hurt minorities greatly.posted by: David Thomson on 05.18.04 at 04:21 PM [permalink]
Brown unfortunately was only a limited success. The partial result of Brown? "White flight" hollowing out our inner cities and "ghetto-izing" them. I do not question the absolute right to desegregate schools on racial biases, and I do not question the absolute moral rightness of the original cause - but forced busing was always a terrible solution. As a simple logistical matter it just didn't work. As a legal precendent it stands without question, and also without question it points to the awkwardness and difficulty of judicially imposed social solutions.
True equality in the future can only be approached by remediating causal conditions. When we make a commitment to funding poor schools to create opportunities for academic excellence and giving students who academically excel anywhere an equal opportunity to succeed, then and only then will the shame and stereotypes of race as walls in our society eventually come down.posted by: Oldman on 05.18.04 at 04:21 PM [permalink]
booknotes recently had an interview with charles ogletree about his new book all deliberate speed: reflections on the first half-century of brown vs. board of education (teacher guide :) while there's also a documentary out as well!posted by: latka on 05.18.04 at 04:21 PM [permalink]
Brown was a lousy decision; they were right, for the wrong reasons. Plessy should have been attacked directly -- the Fourteen Amendment should not allow the government to draw distinctions on its citizens based on race. Would have saved a lot of trouble, since we're still debating whether racial spoils systems ought to be allowed. (So far, the answer is 'yes' so long as it's called 'affirmative action'.)
The idea that, to be well-educated, black kids need white kids in the classroom, is beyond absurd.posted by: Lee Dise on 05.18.04 at 04:21 PM [permalink]
Lee -- You may want to read Eugene Volokh's discussion of the use of social science evidence in Brownposted by: Dan Drezner on 05.18.04 at 04:21 PM [permalink]
Dan, notwithstanding Mr. Volokh's commentary, if the Fourteenth Amendment means anything at all, it means that there must be equal protection under the law regardless of race.
I take this to mean that Jim Crow laws were unconstitutional. I also take this to mean that "affirmative action" laws are unconstitutional.
Volokh points out, rightly, that we tolerated Jim Crow laws for centuries, implying that with some people it's just a question of whose ox is being gored. Point conceded, and so what? I don't think legal reasoning should be based on who has the better end of the tu quoque.
Here's Sowell's take:
posted by: Lee Dise on 05.18.04 at 04:21 PM [permalink]
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