The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice


While Brown v. Board of Education sought to integrate the public school system, fifty years later many public schools remain racially identifiable. African American and Latino students attend schools which are overwhelmingly comprised of minorities. Some racially isolated schools even experienced a rise in their minority student population after the decision in Brown. While the decision narrowed racial disparities in schools, such disparities remain distressing. Data shows a large disparity in the number of higher educational degrees earned by African American and White individuals. Additionally, wage earnings of African Americans are significantly smaller compared to White wage earnings. Educational outcomes have a significant, if not dispositive impact on earning power and sustained economic prosperity. People attribute these disparities to segregation, but they fail to account for the psychological damage caused by these differences. The Brown litigation brought these problems to light. Brown should have done two things: 1) bring relief to the litigants and school districts, and 2) constitutionally eliminate segregation in the public school system. However, people quickly realized desegregation could not stop at the public school system. Unfortunately, Brown could never accomplish such a wide reach to the social, political, and economic aspects affecting segregation and discrimination in America. The ruling was no match for rank racism, unchecked political power, judicial capitulation, housing segregation, or interstate highway construction policies. The fact other facets of discrimination remain unchecked means Brown’s edict could not wholly be fulfilled. It follows that our expectations for what the Brown decision could achieve for African Americans were outsized or misplaced.

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