Beyond Black, White and Brown

By Reed, Adolph, Jr.; Noguera, Pedro et al. | The Nation, May 3, 2004 | Go to article overview

Beyond Black, White and Brown


Reed, Adolph, Jr., Noguera, Pedro, Cohen, Robert, Matsuda, Mari, Wu, Frank H., Hilliard, Asa,, III, Sullivan, Patricia, Hall, Jacquelyn D., Kozol, Jonathan, The Nation


Thanks to the civil rights revolution, de jure segregation is dead. But vast social, economic and educational inequalities continue to plague American society. Moreover, while the black-white paradigm has never fully described American race relations, we are far more aware today than in the past of the multiracial nature of our society. With this in mind, we asked a range of scholars, writers and activists to reflect on the legacy of Brown and the prospects for future change. Should education be the primary focus of social activism? What strategies will most effectively promote educational betterment in black and other communities? Can we expect the courts to play a role at the forefront of change, as they did for much of the 1950s and '60s, and if not, what other institutions are positioned to adopt that role? Is the goal of educational desegregation irrelevant today? Their responses follow.--The Editors

H

Adolph Reed Jr.

It's almost difficult for me to take in that the Brown decision was handed down fifty years ago this May. It's so vivid a part of the swirl of dramatic events that punctuated and shaped my childhood: the Montgomery bus boycott, the lynching of Emmett Till, Little Rock--all of which occurred within three years of Brown.

The United States has changed radically during the half-century since that momentous ruling, and it's good to recall that it has. It's important especially to recognize how striking political and social change has been in the South. Those who can't remember the old Jim Crow regime can be too easily seduced by a rhetoric that stresses the magnitude and injustice of contemporary inequalities by minimizing the significance of the victory against segregation. Those who lived under the old regime know better.

The segregationist regime in the South encompassed far more than the "separate but equal" doctrine that Brown overturned in public education, far more than the petty apartheid reflected in Whites Only or Colored Only signs. It was a codified social order, a system of state-sponsored and state-enforced racial domination. It wasn't about prejudice and bigotry. Though it certainly fed on and legitimized both, it was fundamentally about who could claim the rights and protections of citizenship and who couldn't. And it was always at least as much about imposing and stabilizing a pattern of social relations rooted in the political economy's class and power dynamics as it was about formal commitment to an ideology of white supremacy.

It was also finite. It was the expression of reactionary elites' victory in the nearly thirty-year struggle over the terms on which a post-slavery Southern social order would be built. The Jim Crow regime sanctified in the infamous Plessy doctrine was only fully consolidated between 1890 and 1910. Its institutional back was broken by 1965. That is, all four of my grandparents were at least adolescents by the time the system was solidly entrenched; its legal foundations were destroyed before I was old enough to vote.

In 1954, or even 1955 or '57, few imagined that the system wouldn't last another generation. Even activists weren't prepared for the prairie fire of insurgency that opposition to Jim Crow ignited between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s. Brown was both illustration of and impetus for that change. It was also a culmination of decades of careful strategizing and organizing, of protracted legal struggle, against one facet of the segregationist order--a point where its separate-but-equal sophistry was most vulnerable--led by the NAACP and its allies.

Scholars and ideologues of one sort or another continue to debate the precise role that Brown played, how important it was, in bringing down Jim Crow. These debates can be more or less useful or interesting analytically. They can help to sharpen perspective on different facets and nuances of the movement and its time. But they are ultimately irresolvable. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Beyond Black, White and Brown
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.