The Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, and the paths still not taken

Today marks the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, a decision by our Supreme Court that was arguably the most momentous court decision in our country’s history. It would be another decade before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 came into play, which made segregation in public places—like restaurants—illegal as well. (Newsweek recounts some incredible reactions to this decision from people in a May 24, 1954 issue of the magazine.)

It’s no secret, though, that discrimination still widely exists throughout the United States. While we can and should take time to remember momentous occasions like Brown v. Board of Education, we should also take these anniversaries as reminders of what a long way we still have to go:

Recent reports show that disciplinary action is more likely to be carried out against African American or Latino students than white students. Further, reports show that "most positive behavior, like questions and encouragement," will be directed "to white students." Earlier this year, the White House released guidance on school discipline, telling administrators they must be more aware of and avoid discrimination when disciplining students.

There are many instances of voter discrimination in voter ID laws that disproportionately affect minorities, from Dorothy Cooper's story in Chattanooga, which became a symbol for many voters in 2011 to Florida's attempt in 2012 to purge hundreds of thousands of voters 60% of whom were hispanic.

Brown v. Board of Education was the culmination of a decades-long strategy by innovative lawyers, community organizers, and other advocates of social change. Significant achievements like this do not come overnight; those who won this court battle, as well as those fighting for change now, know that they take hard work and years of sacrifice. 

I will continue to work for equality in my role as a Senator, but my efforts must be mirrored by all of you seeking similar changes in your communities. I hope that today’s anniversary will serve as a reminder to us all of what this kind of work can achieve, and an inspiration to never stop fighting for what we believe.