On May 7, 1954, the United States Supreme Court handed down a 9-0 decision which stated that “separate educational facilities ware inherently unequal.” This decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 which allowed for state sponsored segregation in public education. This was the first major victory in the civil rights movement. At the time of the ruling 17 states required segregation and 16 states prohibited it.
That ruling by the Warren Court came down nearly 60 years ago. Most of us would have hoped in that time, with integration beginning in the educational system, that racial hatred would have come to an end. But, because racial hatred is often handed down from parents to children, it persists.
Throughout my 11 years of school I attended black schools. I didn’t encounter integrated schools until my son began his career. He began in an integrated religious school until we moved to Sedalia when he moved to second grade.
I noticed right away there were differences in the way school was conducted. In the black school students never went into the building until shortly before class. At that time, all the students came together silently and boys removed their headpieces. The principal was the head of the class and he called the students to order. Everyone came to order and the principal lead us inside the building with each student going to his or her class.
We never entered the school in disorder. I was shocked the first time I was in the building and students were walking and running in the hallways out of order. The fact that students were actually laughing and talking in the hallways surprised me. We were never allowed to do that inside the building.
As I grew older I began to understand. Apparently, white people had been taught that black people were very disrespectful and were always out of order. It was therefore very important that our teachers and principals demanded that we were always to be in order. In those early days of integration, it was important for us to try to be the best of everything.
But as time went on, children became children, and black and white they were children. Most learned and became better children. Some continued to conform to their parents beliefs and for them things never improved.
We’ve come 60 years to this point. Some of us will continue to grow. And because of this, the world will become a better place.