Recruiting Expert Witnesses
CCI may have been in the process of disintegrating just as the school segregation trials were starting up, but it had left behind a well-developed plan of attack that social scientists could use in the court trials. Social scientists, in their published writings, had made a social-scientific case against segregation and discrimination that dovetailed with the legal case of the NAACP-LDEF.
There were three basic arguments that the social-scientific community could make for the NAACP-LDEF. The first was that no differences existed between the races in terms of intelligence or ability to learn. This was the argument Otto Klineberg had been attempting to prove since his dissertation in 1928.
Second was a group of arguments about the psychological damage that flowed from segregation. Although the Clarks’ projective tests would be the most readily recognizable form of the damage argument, a theoretical underpinning also came from Lewin’s theories of self-hatred in groups. Added to the empirical and theoretical ideas about self-hatred was a basic attitude toward the role of law in society. Although they would not be asked by the NAACP-LDEF necessarily to prove that legally segregated education caused psychological damage, social scientists believed for a number of reasons that they could isolate just that variable, at least in theory, as the cause of damage.
The third group of arguments advanced by the social scientists during the Brown litigation addressed problems of desegregation. Social scientists believed desegregation could be expected to proceed smoothly, even though the South might vehemently deny that desegregation would ever be possible. The force of the law, appeals to democracy, the nature of the prejudiced personality, the nature of contact between different groups— all these things, the social scientists would argue, meant that desegregation would indeed be possible, even in the South.