The Brown versus Board of Education case is one of the major milestones in the ending of racial segregation, often taught in history classes or discussed when talking about modern issues on race or transgender rights. In 1951, the NAACP asked certain African American families, such as Leola and Oliver Brown in Topeka, Kansas, to attempt to enroll their child into an exclusively white school. In the neighborhood that the Browns were living in, the African-American dominated school was an extremely far walk for Linda, in sometimes freezing weather, whereas the white school was a simple three blocks away. Now, when they initially went to the school, the Browns were rejected and the school put the blame on the district board, saying it was out of their hands and that there was nothing they could do.
So, the Browns decided to sue the school and, for the first time in history, they won the case and therefore the right to send Linda Brown, a black child, to a primarily white school. However, when reexamining this case, it is important to look at background of the Brown family. Leola Brown, the mother of Linda, had actually attended the black school in Topeka and stated in interviews that “the teachers were fantastic” and that the education was wonderful there. The main reason for the switch in schools was because Leola and Oliver believed they should have the right to send their children to whichever school they choose, especially if it is one that is more convenient to attend. When the decision to allow the Browns to send Linda to the white school was made, however, the court voiced it as if they were allowing her to go because she was disadvantaged.
In the decision, the court stated that it was mentally handicapping to send kids to black schools, a very different reason than stated by Leola Brown for ending educational segregation. Although many in history might see this milestone in the civil rights movement as an advancement, African Americans were still the ones who suffered for this decision. Not long after more schools began to mix races, there was a mass firing of all black teachers across Southern states, such as Virginia and Kansas. As Malcolm Gladwell points out in his podcast Revisionist History, there should have been more teachers integrated into schools as well.
As a child, having a teacher of your ethnicity does, in fact, matter. If a black child who is equally as gifted as a white child is paired up with a black teacher, they are found to be fifty percent more likely to be placed into a gifted program. However, this is not special treatment. It is simply because their abilities are more likely to go unrecognized by a white teacher. However, this isn’t to say that all white teachers are racist. It’s due to subconscious racism that has been prevalent since 1954, when this court decision was made, and it continues to happen today, leading to more disadvantages and obstacles that must be overcome by African American children.
In my opinion, teacher unions and school boards must make more of a conscious decision to integrate black teachers into the educational system, elementary schools in particular, and start teaching school teachers that their biases may lead to the misidentification of gifted black children. The way that teachers impact students is important and somehow, even when segregation was ending, black educators were still the ones who sacrificed to stop racism and division, a fact that should be recognized more often. To learn more details on this issue, I highly recommend checking out Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History.
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