SSU discussion commemorates upcoming Brown v. Board of Education 60th anniversary

Posted by Gabrielle Cordero on April 2, 2014 3:25 PM

May 17, 2014 will mark the 60th anniversary of the historical Brown v. the Board of Education decision. The upcoming anniversary presents the educational community with a moment to re-evaluate race relations today. It is a time to analyze how much education and race in America have transformed since the U.S Supreme Court's decision, as the SSU community joined to discuss on February 19th.

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(From left to right: Professors Erma-Jean Sims, Steve Estes & Kim Hester-Williams

As an institution that recognizes the importance of diversity and education, Sonoma State engaged a panel discussion organized by SSU librarian Karen Brodsky. Speakers included History professor Steve Estes, English and American Multicultural Studies (AMCS) professor Kim Hester-Williams and Erma Jean Sims, professor of Education. Each professor offered insights on the subject through the lens of their professional expertise.

For those who need an update, Brown vs. Board was an important landmark case by the Supreme Court that discontinued the legality of racial segregation in U.S. public schools.

Erma Jean Sims focused on the development and causes of resegregation, explaining how racial issues persist in American society. Along with resegregation, there are economic issues some have to endure, "Resegregation by race usually leads to further segregation by income, which has far-reaching effects on the quality of housing, and quality of education," said Sims, "Racially segregated schools are almost always schools with high concentrations of poverty."

Kim Hester-Williams examined black rights today by prefacing with an excerpt from Toni Morrison's The Dancing Mind, and followed with the powerful painting of Ruby Bridges by Norman Rockwell. Williams added that the incident of Ruby Bridges, entering her first day of first grade, came a mere six years after the Brown v. Board decision.

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Norman Rockwell's "Ruby Bridges" painting

The painting served as an example of how racism prevails in American society. Although America has taken legal matters to protect the rights and education of minorities in America, it seems that diverging interests undermine Brown decisions, as Hester-Williams explained. She pulled into question the extent of progressivism for black rights today and how far American society still has to go.

Steve Estes concluded with his historical knowledge on the matter, detailing how Brown vs. Board inspired movements such as the Grassroots Movement. The audience was given an overview from Plessy to Brown to the 2000's, to help examine issues such as gentrification today. With higher income families migrating back to the cities, audience members learned that segregation is being created within schools. Thus creating an insufficient and inferior education for the Black and Latino youth.

As a conclusion to the discussion, the panel opened to a group discussion. Eager participants from the audience questioned how they could help make changes in the community. From remarks and inputs, the professors and members of the audience offered more active recruitment from the campus.

The group brought attention to the University and ways the SSU community can be an active part resolving racial issues in education. Fellow participants offered that University, itself, could begin recruiting a more diverse faculty and becoming more involved. The discussion served as a first step to realizing the needs in education in terms of race.