The Supreme Court ended the doctrine of “Separate but Equal” when it handed down the landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, overturning the decision on Plessey v. Ferguson on May 18, 1896 that affirmed Louisiana state law mandating “equal but separate”. Homer Adolph Plessy bought a ticket on the East Louisiana Railroad, from New Orleans to Covington, La. Mr. Plessy , seven-eighths white and one-eighth Negro, took a seat in the coach designated for whites on the segregated train. When challenged, he refused to move, he was taken off and jailed.
Reflecting the social and legal environment of the times, the Plessy decision was not even close – the decision was handed down by a vote of 7 to 1 with the majority opinion written by Justice Henry Billings Brown and the dissent written by Justice John Marshall Harlan. This decision established legal segregation by race as the law of the land and it stood for 58 years until society changed and recognized that separate but equal is anything but equal.
Brown v. Board of Education has now been law for 5 years longer than was Plessy (63 years vs. 58). Proving that certain segments of mankind never learn anything from history, the SJW’s (social justice warriors) of contemporary times seek to return to the days of Plessy (with a twist) by working with government to be separate and equal (but special). Blacks are calling for “black only” instruction in college and black only police and government in majority black areas. Muslims are demanding Muslim only public accommodations – the same is true with the LGBT community. Feminists want to be free of the “heteronormative patriarchy” by removing men from their roles in society. The entire “safe space” idea is not just to provide protection for thin-skinned progressive adult children and academics (but I repeat myself) but to exclude people who hold opposing ideas and prevent them from being heard. These folks say they want to be treated as equal but demand to be separated from others and in doing so, they also expect special protection and treatment.
Affirmative action programs were created to “cure” the discrimination created by the “separate but equal” doctrine. These programs created the first classes of people who were separate and equal (but special). The idea was to carve out special privileges for blacks that would eventually help a class of citizens overcome historical inequality. Looking at black America today, it is obviously possible to make the case that black individuals have benefited – but as a socio-economic class, affirmative action can hardly be considered a success – and yet it continues apace.
In 2003’s Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), SCOTUS upheld the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School by defining the very quota system found unconstitutional in 1978’s Regents of the University of California v. Bakke as “not a quota system” (a lot like how John Roberts redefined Obamacare’s tax as not a tax and a tax at the same time in order to find Obamacare constitutional). Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, writing for the majority in a 5-4 decision and joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, ruled that the University of Michigan Law School had a “compelling interest in promoting class diversity.” Never mind that the Constitution says nothing about “diversity” and everything about equality, the important aspect is that Grutter v. Bollinger affirmed the same “separate but equal” doctrine as did Plessy v. Ferguson (with the special twist of approving reverse discrimination).
Progressivism is riddled with self-contradictory ideas and affirmative action is no exception – it seeks to create equality by creating inequality (i.e. lowering standards, mandating quotas, grading on the curve, etc.), proving that Brown v. Board of Education was demonstrably correct – separate is not equal, especially when discrimination is thought to be cured by more discrimination against an out of favor class. Progressivism is built on building protected classes and “curing” their ills by disadvantaging another class. Proving that progressives are the least self-aware class on the face of the American political landscape, this is the basis for the Plessy decision in 1896 making the modern SJW’s little better than the post-Civil War segregationists.
Separate but equal is not equal. Equal but special is not the same as being equal. Separate but equal was wrong in 1896 and progressivism’s doctrine of separate and equal (but special) is just as wrong today.
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Promoting diversity by promoting separation of certain defined groups actually decreases the survivability of a culture – see Jonathan Haidt, ‘Can’t we disagree more constructively?”, a 99-cent download from Amazon