How I Rode the Bus to Become a Professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law; Reflections on Keyes's Legacy for the Metropolitan, Post-Racial, and Multiracial Twenty-First Century
37 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2013
Date Written: September 23, 2013
This Essay serves as the foreword to the Denver University Law Review 2013 Symposium: Forty Years Since Keyes v. School District No. 1: Equality of Educational Opportunity and the Legal Construction of Metropolitan America. Over two-and-a-half days, the Law Review, in collaboration with the Tenth Judicial Circuit Historical Society, the Sturm College of Law’s Office of the Dean, the Associate Dean of Institutional Diversity and Inclusiveness, the Constitutional Rights and Remedies Program, and the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education, brought together original participants in the case, policy makers, school administrators as well as educators, community activists, and distinguished legal, social science, education, and humanities scholars to examine Keyes’s impact today.
As both the live symposium as well as the symposium articles printed attest, Keyes remains important for serious and thoughtful study as well as for legal application, although it failed miserably to become a more robust and wide-ranging Brown for the rest of America. Through the lens of Romero’s experiences being born, raised, bused, and ultimately returning home to work and raise his family in the Denver area, the essay examines three ways to understand Keyes and its enduring legacy today. The essay begins by examining the many ways that Keyes pointed to an America in which the majority of inhabitants lived not only in urban areas but also in amorphous, sprawling metropolitan regions that lacked unifying hubs of culture, community, or local government. As this part surveys, a broad and diverse array of local, state, and federal government actions catalyzed a metropolitan revolution that continues to this very day.
This metropolitization of the United States has had enormous consequences for racial relations that the Foreword explores in the next two parts. On the one hand, decentralization and fragmentation created opportunities for social mobility and achieving the American dream for unprecedented numbers of Americans, especially those who understood themselves as White and not subject to the racial sins of the past. By commuting in private automobiles that bypassed “blighted” neighborhoods and dying cities on federally financed expressways, and working and shopping in largely homogenous suburban communities, suburbanites evaded altogether the social mix and inequalities of their sprawling metropolitan regions. In this section, the essay details the many ways that the metropolitan revolution helped many Americans to believe that their cities were — as many believed Denver to be — one of relative social harmony where racial problems were a thing of the past.
On the other hand, the fragmentation and isolation of metropolitan America obscured the extent that the nation was being fundamentally transformed by immigration from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, and the subsequent multiracial identities that emerged to claim space and place in these very same metropolitan regions. As this final section examines, a robust multi-color line, as in Keyes, had emerged to sweep away the spatial and racial certainties so clear in Brown and in every other Supreme Court desegregation case until 1973. It is a legacy that continues to this day. In the end, the essay argues that Keyes merits further reflection and study as lawyers and policy makers look for solutions to dismantle continued patterns of segregation and inequality in the twenty-first century United States.
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