This year marks the 50 year anniversary in what was arguably themost important case in the history of the United States, Brown v.Board of Education. The case marked the end of the Separate butEqual doctrine, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1896. Byoverturning what was the law of the land for over 58 years, theUnited States education system was, in theory, going to become amelting pot of different cultures. Black students would be affordedthe same opportunity as White students. But take a look at schoolstoday, and you can begin to see how little the law has affected oureducation system.
Before I go any further, let me make my point clear: All myyears of schooling have taken place in the post-Brown v. Board ofEducation system, and I have experienced both sides of thespectrum. I have gone to schools where the majority of students areWhite, and I have gone to schools where the majority of studentsare Black. And it has been in my experience, that while Brown v.Board of Education was important to the fabric of American society,I am glad desegregation was never a forced process, but rather, agradual one that is left up to individuals.
When I was growing up, my high school yearswere the only time I went to school across town. Before that, Iwent to elementary school at the mostly Black school in my frontyard; middle school, the mostly Black school in my backyard. Highschool came, and my mother and I decided that I wouldn’t beattending Seaside High, even though it had similar demographics tomy elementary and middle schools and was located right down thestreet. Instead, we chose Monterey High School, where the majorityof students were White (or as they would always clarify, Italian),and in order to get there, I’d have to take a bus. Why we did thisis not important, but what is important is the effect it had on mylife.
I never resented my high school for its lackof diversity. I knew what I was getting into before I entered thosehalls in 1996. But what I did come away with was a stronger desireto keep all my social settings in line with what I grew up withinmy elementary and middle school years. For four years, I advocatedto White students the importance of getting a multiculturaleducation, and I don’t think I touched one student. These werepeople who thought the establishment was just fine.
When it came time to pick a college, I wasdetermined not to fall into the same trap. There is no doubt in mymind that my time spent at MHS had a profound effect on my decisionto go to historically (and majority) Black Howard University forcollege. When you spend four years in a place where all theachievements in sports and music are made by Blacks, and academic,classroom-oriented achievements are made by Whites, you realizethat we still might live in the year 1896, and 1954 is just anotherDaily Double answer on Jeopardy.
Since then, I have learned that White peoplewill never realize the magnitude of Brown v. Board of Educationmore than I will. The echo of that gavel meeting wood resonates inmy ears, and I am glad I have a choice – the choice to learnamongst my people, without feeling like I have lost anything in theprocess