In Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 struck a strong blow against racism by ruling that racial segregation of schools was unconstitutional. Although, 65 years later, many schools in Texas and elsewhere are still segregated because of economic and racial disparities among communities, the landmark ruling nevertheless has long been considered the established law of the land and a goal that we must continue to work to achieve.
But in Trumpworld, where racism is winked at and encouraged by the Tweeter-in-Chief and education is an afterthought, even something as fundamental as equal opportunity in public schools is being questioned.
For months now, many of President Trump’s nominees to federal judgeships, including several from Texas, have refused in Senate confirmation hearings to declare without reservation that the Brown v. Board of Education case was correctly decided.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights believes an affirmation of the correctness of the Brown decision should be a requirement for Senate confirmation of any judicial nominee.
“The refusal by some nominees to say that the decision was correctly decided sends a dangerous signal to all Americans – especially African Americans – that Brown could someday be overturned and that our nation could return to the disgraceful days of racial segregation,” the conference’s president and CEO, Vanita Gupta, has told senators in a letter.
“Affirming Brown is an essential principle of racial equality that must be endorsed by all who seek a lifetime appointment on our federal courts. Regrettably, it is not, and that should be disqualifying,” she said.
Ada Brown, an African American on the Texas 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas who has been nominated by Trump to be a federal district judge, acknowledged that she has benefited from the Brown ruling.
“Because of Brown v. Board of Education, I went to an excellent integrated school where my father went to a very poor segregated school,” she said at a Senate hearing.
But she is among the Trump judicial nominees who have refused to comment on the correctness of the desegregation decision because, they claim, a judicial canon prevents them from commenting on court decisions.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who has been asking nominees to answer the Brown question, said the judicial canon they cite was “completely inapplicable” to established decisions such as Brown v. Board of Education.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh answered similar questions about the Brown decision at their confirmation hearings. Both said it was correctly decided.
Fearful their confirmations were in danger, some nominees have begun to break their silence in favor of offering support for Brown, but the civil rights group lists 23 nominees around the country who are still refusing to answer the question.
Does this mean they are segregationists? Probably not. But for whatever reason, they are playing politics with an issue at the heart of the American sense of fairness and equality. And when judicial nominees refuse to declare the importance and correctness of the Supreme Court’s Brown ruling, they are encouraging racists who want to tear it up.