On this day in 1954, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision that would ring through the decades, but bigoted and uncaring politicians like Senator Joseph Cryan have blunted its impact in New Jersey by ignoring the necessity of justice.
Brown v. Board of Education is a household name, deeply ingrained in the popular conscience as a turning point in the civil rights movement and remembered in popular myth as a death blow to racial segregation but the reality is that many students are still cheated by a corrupt system that fails to provide equal education for all.
Unfortunately, many Americans still encounter the harsh reality of racial segregation.
According to the state Department of Education School Report Card data, many public schools in New Jersey continue to have deeply segregated student populations, with African American and Latino students being concentrated in lower-performing schools with fewer resources.
This perpetuates a cycle of inequality and limits the opportunities available to these students.
Cryan has represented Union County since 2002, as a member of the State Legislature or Union County Sheriff, but classrooms in Elizabeth are 91 percent Hispanic/Black, in Union Township they are 71 percent Hispanic/Black, and Roselle schools are 85 percent Hispanic/Black.
In the newest part of Cryan’s district, Kenilworth classrooms are 75 percent White.
Cryan’s father was a lawmaker and Essex County sheriff who worked to suppress Black voters during the 1960s and ’70s, as Newark became liberated from the mafia-connected leadership of Hugh Addonizio and others.
His upbringing shows why Cryan has a record of abject failure, ignoring the Jim Crow-level racial segregation in New Jersey schools for the entire 20 years since he was first elected to the Legislature, but he has also turned politics into a family business that hinders the prospects of anyone not connected.
That kind of nepotism is a far cry from the ‘justice for all’ kids are taught about our democratic republic, but unless voters take action that’s how it is going to be.
Cryan has also supported the Murphy administration, which is fighting against the anti-segregation lawsuit filed against New Jersey by a group of civil rights advocates.
The lawsuit alleges the state’s public school system is so racially segregated that it fails to provide equal educational opportunities for all students.
The education advocates call on all elected officials in New Jersey to prioritize this issue and take action to promote diversity and equity in public schools. They urge the New Jersey Department of Education to take a leadership role in addressing this problem and to work with local school districts to develop solutions that will ensure that all students have access to the resources and opportunities they need to succeed.
Based on the 2020-2021 New Jersey Department of Education School Report Card data, the racial composition of public school students in Elizabeth, Union, Roselle, and Kenilworth is as follows:
Elizabeth Public Schools:
Black/African American: 8.6%
Union Public Schools:
Black/African American: 31.5%
Roselle Public Schools:
Black/African American: 52.1%
Kenilworth Public Schools:
Black/African American: 2.2%
Note: “Other” includes students who identified as American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, or two or more races.
The Murphy administration has been a vocal opponent of the lawsuit, arguing that the state is already making significant efforts to address segregation in its schools. The administration has pointed to a number of initiatives, including the expansion of pre-K programs, the creation of new magnet schools, and the implementation of diversity and inclusion training for teachers and staff.
Despite these efforts, the lawsuit argues that New Jersey’s school system remains deeply segregated and that many minority students are denied access to quality educational opportunities. The plaintiffs are seeking a range of remedies, including the establishment of a statewide desegregation plan and the creation of a new independent office to oversee efforts to combat segregation in schools.
The Murphy administration has countered these claims by arguing that the state’s efforts are already producing results. They point to recent data that shows a reduction in racial disparities in school discipline and an increase in the number of diverse schools and classrooms.
However, the lawsuit has garnered significant support from civil rights advocates, who argue that the state needs to do more to address the legacy of segregation in its schools. They point to the fact that New Jersey is one of the most racially segregated states in the country, with minority students concentrated in certain districts and schools.
Ultimately, the outcome of the lawsuit remains uncertain, but it is clear that the Murphy administration is committed to fighting against it. While the administration argues that the state is already taking steps to address segregation, many advocates believe that more needs to be done to ensure that all students have access to quality educational opportunities, regardless of their race or background.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that U.S. state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality.
The decision partially overruled the Court’s 1896 decision Plessy v. Ferguson, which had held that racial segregation laws did not violate the U.S. Constitution as long as the facilities for each race were equal in quality, a doctrine that had come to be known as “separate but equal”.[note 1] The Court’s decision in Brown paved the way for integration and was a major victory of the civil rights movement, and a model for many future impact litigation cases.
The underlying case began in 1951 when the public school system in Topeka, Kansas, refused to enroll local black resident Oliver Brown’s daughter at the elementary school closest to their home, instead requiring her to ride a bus to a segregated black school farther away.
The Browns and twelve other local black families in similar situations filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. federal court against the Topeka Board of Education, alleging that its segregation policy was unconstitutional.
A special three-judge court of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas rendered a verdict against the Browns, relying on the precedent of Plessy and its “separate but equal” doctrine. The Browns, represented by NAACP chief counsel Thurgood Marshall, then appealed the ruling directly to the Supreme Court.
In May 1954, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous 9–0 decision in favor of the Browns. The Court ruled that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”, and therefore laws that impose them violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
However, the decision’s 14 pages did not spell out any sort of method for ending racial segregation in schools, and the Court’s second decision in Brown II (349 U.S. 294 (1955)) only ordered states to desegregate “with all deliberate speed”.
In the Southern United States, especially the “Deep South”, where racial segregation was deeply entrenched, the reaction to Brown among most white people was “noisy and stubborn”.
Many Southern governmental and political leaders embraced a plan known as “Massive Resistance”, created by Virginia Senator Harry F. Byrd, in order to frustrate attempts to force them to de-segregate their school systems.
Four years later, in the case of Cooper v. Aaron, the Court reaffirmed its ruling in Brown and explicitly stated that state officials and legislators had no power to nullify its ruling.
The test for New Jersey will be whether the court allows the government to continue to have deeply segregated student populations or if some massive structural change will require officials to reallocate resources and mix up the enrollment so that every child gets the quality of education needed to succeed in life.