Simple Justice or Complex Injustice?: American Racial Dynamics and the Ironies of Brown and Grutter

3(1) Perspectives on Urban Education

15 Pages Posted: 3 May 2018

See all articles by Vinay Harpalani

Vinay Harpalani

Savannah Law School; Drake University Law School

Date Written: 2004

Abstract

In 1954, the Supreme Court rendered its landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, ruling unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The eventual result of Brown was the complete breakdown of de jure segregation. It is appropriate we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of this decision, which is aptly described by the title of Richard Kluger's (1975) famous book, Simple Justice. Yet, Brown is marked by a series of ironic twists, not the least of which is its tragically unfulfilled promise; public schools today are more segregated than they were 30 years ago. Also, the social science evidence presented in Brown, along with its legal reasoning and relationship to U.S. foreign policy interests, have generated much debate. Here, I analyze the many ironies surrounding Brown, including the role of social science, political interests inherent in the decision, limitations of future desegregation efforts, and neoconservative rearticulation of the Civil Rights Movement. I also consider parallels between Brown and the recent University of Michigan affirmative action cases, which in many ways are its present day corollaries. My aim is to illustrate the ambivalence of Brown as not only a "simple justice" but also a "complex injustice."

Suggested Citation

Harpalani, Vinay, Simple Justice or Complex Injustice?: American Racial Dynamics and the Ironies of Brown and Grutter (2004). 3(1) Perspectives on Urban Education. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3153180

Vinay Harpalani (Contact Author)

Savannah Law School ( email )

United States
2158734476 (Phone)

Drake University Law School ( email )

2507 University Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50311
United States

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