Civil Rights Movement: Brown v. Board of Education
There were many great moments in the civil rights movement, but none stands out more than the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. That case truly addressed the horrors of segregation and gave a measure of equality to black school children who wanted to be able to attend school with their white counterparts. Occurring in 1954, the Brown case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where school segregation was determined to be against the United States Constitution (Patterson, 2001; Valadez, 2000). The decision was unanimous, which gave a lot of insight into the times and how they were changing to better address what was taking place in the hearts and minds of the people of the United States. Many things that have happened in the civil rights movement since the Brown case have occurred because people realized that change was possible and that their voices could be heard. They stood up for what they believed in and made sure they did not back down until positive changes were made.
Still, not everything in the civil rights movement went well. There were many times before Brown v Board of Education where people struggled with segregation and other problems. Before the Brown decision, there were ten attempts to desegregate schools (Kasher, 2000). Nothing worked, and people kept trying and trying in order to see improvement. The argument for segregation revolved around the idea that the schools for blacks and whites were "separate but equal." Since they were equal, they did not need to be inclusive. Keeping people apart based on race seemed to be the "right" thing to do during that time, but the public outcry against doing that started to grow. People wanted their children to be able to attend the schools closest to their homes, instead of having to be bussed clear across the city to a "black" school or a "white" school. That was what started the entire Brown case, but the case became something much more significant than that (Kluger, 1975).
The Brown case was not the first foray into a desire to desegregate, but it is the one most people remember. This is partially because it overturned Plessy v Ferguson, but also partially because it was such a significant milestone toward ensuring more equality for blacks and whites (Patterson, 2001). When their children were able to attend school together it was harder to segregate them in other ways. Lunch counters, bathrooms, drinking fountains, housing, buses, and other places became more equal throughout the civil rights movement (Kasher, 2000). What many people do not realize, though, is that civil rights were not just about black and white. They was also about male and female. Black men had more power after desegregation, but black women still often struggled. Today, black women are still considered to be at the bottom in the eyes of many people. Even if those people are not racist, they still see that black women (and to a lesser extent, black men) are not treated as "equally" as those who are white. Black women, statistically, have lower educational attainment and make less money, which causes more of them to be on public assistance and have other struggles.
There are also a disproportionate number of black men in the correctional system. There are two arguments on that issue. One is that these men are not receiving enough opportunities to keep them from turning to crime and that the system is failing them. The other argument is that these men simply want the life of crime and are unconcerned with whether they are or are not being offered opportunities. While both of these arguments have merit, there is no denying that the civil rights movement opened many doors for black people in the United States. It took time for people to walk through those doors, however, and there was certainly resistance from some who did not feel as though the Brown decision was the right one. There were appeals filed and protests launched, and other cases in the past where segregation had lost out were cited. All was for naught, of course, because the Brown decision moved the country forward and there was no turning back from it (Valadez, 2000).