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In a segregation system, people of a particular race or ethnic group have a different education system, commercial and housing facilities from that of other race(s). The document, “Desegregation: Civil rights or State rights”, by Charles Clotfelter, addresses the historical and legal aspects of the desegregation movement that followed the Supreme Court ruling in 1954 (Clotfelter 2006, 2).
The ruling generated much debate as to whether the segregation practices violated the civil rights of the blacks. The 1954 Supreme Court ruling caused debate over the meaning of civil rights and state rights.
The Author’s Background
The author is professor in public policy with particular interests in economics of education. The author presents an analysis of the court cases that led to the elimination of the desegregation practices involving the blacks and the whites in the US. Using specific examples, the author argues that the Supreme Court ruling, in the Brown vs. Board of Education, was not in line with the provisions of the constitution or the 14th Amendment.
He supports the ideologies of the Conservatives as constitutional relative to the Liberals. He cites Barry Goldwater, a conservative, whose views on integration and civil rights conflicts the Supreme Court ruling (Clotfelter 2006, 4). He believes that the civil rights, as enshrined in the constitution, are different from state rights and they were not violated by the segregation practices. Consequently, the Supreme Court erred in making the ruling in support of segregation.
Historical Content in the Document
The document addresses the historical events that gave rise to the desegregation movement. At the time, segregation in public education between the blacks and the whites was a common practice.
The document explains the 1954 ruling, by the then Chief Justice, Earl Warren, on Brown vs. Department of Education, enraged many white citizens especially in the South who were against integration (Clotfelter 2006, 2). The document identifies the Plessy vs. Ferguson case, an earlier case where the Supreme Court upheld that racial segregation was constitutional if the facilities were equal.
The Purpose of the Document
The major purpose of the document is to point out that the Supreme Court ruling erred as the segregation practices did not amount to violation of individual civil rights. It cites the original Constitution and the 14th Amendment as not applicable to public education and therefore, the ruling was an abuse of judicial power. Further, the document describes the ensuing debate regarding the civil rights and state rights that followed the ruling.
It outlines the Conservatives’ perspective regarding segregation and racial integration (Clotfelter 2006, 7). Citing Barry Goldwater’s speech, the document explains that the state rights are different from civil rights and that segregation practices did not violate individual civil right as suggested by the court’s ruling (Clotfelter 2006, 5). The document targets the US citizens where it explains how the ruling failed to recognize and uphold the principles of the American Constitution.
The Main Argument in the Document
The document’s main argument revolves around the Supreme Court’s decision on Brown vs. Board of Education that overturned an earlier Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling. The document describes this ruling as a misuse of judicial power. In its ruling, the Supreme Court reasoned that segregation violated individual civil rights.
In this respect, the document explains that the civil rights cited are not legal rights as identified by the Constitution or the 14th Amendment (Clotfelter 2006, 9). Instead, civil rights are moral rights that do not have any legal element. The document cites Governor George Wallace and Senator Barry Goldwater sentiments to support this argument.
The Constitution protects the rights of every citizen. The Supreme Court ruling with regard to segregation in the Brown vs. Department of Education case cited violation of individual rights in its judgment. This raised debate over the definition of civil rights and state rights. In the document, the author cites various aspects where the court erred in passing the desegregation decision. It explains that racial segregation does not violate individual civil rights but moral rights, which have no legal implications.
Clotfelter, Charles T. 2006. After Brown: The Rise and Retreat of School Desegregation. Princeton: Princeton University Press.