by Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall
Recently the Lt. Governor of Virginia, Winsome Sears and members of her immediate staff made the historically incorrect assertion that the 1954 landmark Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was not about racial segregation but instead about school choice. It’s hard to fathom how anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of Brown v. Board would reach the conclusion that this unanimous SCOTUS decision was not just primarily, but exclusively a ruling that state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools were unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools were equal in quality, which of course they were not.
Any person who has followed the career, statements and policy positions of Lt. Governor Sears knows her commitment to dismantling the public education system and sending tax dollars to private, religious, and home schools. While I fundamentally disagree with the Lt. Governor’s long-standing position on education, she, of course, has every right to her beliefs. What she does not have the right to do is attempt to “re-write” history to suit her anti-public education agenda. Nor does she have the right to conflate school choice with the utterly contemptuous, harmful and damaging practice of racial segregation in our public-school systems.
Let’s assume Lt. Governor Sears actually does not know the history of Brown v. Board. Let’s assume she never heard of Oliver Brown or the twelve Black families who filed the class action lawsuit against the Topeka Kansas public school system for refusing to allow their children to attend a public school closest to their home, instead forcing them to be bussed to segregated schools’ miles away from their home. And let’s assume the Lt. Governor has never heard of the brilliant young attorney, Thurgood Marshall, who represented the plaintiffs through the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). And finally, let’s assume Lt. Governor Sears has no familiarity with “Plessy v. Ferguson,” the 1896 case that Brown v. Board overruled. (Plessy v. Ferguson held that racial segregation laws did not violate the U. S. Constitution).
Assuming all that is true, Lt. Governor Sears only need engage in a quick Wikipedia read of Brown V. Board which in the first paragraph states: Brown V. Board “…ruled that U.S. state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality.” As cited by Wikipedia, a deeper reading of the actual unanimous opinion written by Chief Justice Earl Warren goes on to say, “…’separate educational facilities are inherently unequal’ and therefore laws that impose them violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
The most benign reading of Lt. Gov. Sears’ statements regarding Brown v. Board is that she’s truly ignorant of the ruling’s clear intent: to end racial segregation in America’s public schools. The most malign reading is that Ms. Sears is joining the growing list of conservatives who are attempting to change history to fit a narrative they are more comfortable with. Perhaps she is joining Governor Ron DeSantis’s quest to limit the teaching of Black history, tell a “white-washed” version of American history and ban books such as “Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry” or “The Bluest Eye.”
No matter her motivation or lack of understanding, for an elected official of any race, gender, age, education, or socioeconomic background to utter such historically, dangerously, and totally incorrect rubbish is unconscionable.
The Lt. Governor of the great Commonwealth of Virginia would do well to correct her statement soon, and without equivocation. To do anything less invites all Virginians to remember the words of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
Yours in the cause to not re-write history,