Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Societal Implications of the Brown Decision

BOND: William Raspberry, welcome to Explorations in Black Leadership. Thank you so much for being here.


RASPBERRY: It's a pleasure and a joy to be here.


BOND: Well, I want to begin with a question about Brown v. Board of Education. Do you remember what it meant to you at the time you heard about it, the first you heard about it?


RASPBERRY: I do, and what it -- it seemed utterly impossible. I was in small town Mississippi at the time and I thought, "That's all very nice but, boy, it ain't ever going to happen here," you know. I thought I knew whites in the South and I thought that this just ain't going to happen. And slowly I started to believe that, hey, maybe it could, and now I've reached the point where I still believe maybe it could.


BOND: I see. All these years later.


RASPBERRY: It hasn't yet.


BOND: So, I guess that leads into the next question. At the time you thought it wouldn't mean what it promised to mean -- what do you think it's turned out to mean, now these fifty-two years later?


RASPBERRY: It turned out to establish something that I thought was -- and still think -- is very important and that is that the government has no business, at all its levels, has no business making odious separations of people based on race and other irrelevancies. That was an important thing to establish. It was important to drive home the fact that it was damaging. I mean, quite apart from the legal implications, it's damaging psychologically to children to be told that you may not attend this school because of the color of your skin.


Unfortunately, we went on to make another and, I think, also damaging conclusion when we said by implication and I mean we, the black community, said by implication and to some extent still say that what's wrong with this school is that there're too many kids in it who look like you. That's also psychologically damaging and destructive.


I'm awfully glad Brown happened. It wasn't enough. And unfortunately, we still half a century later haven't figured out what enough would look like. We don't know what to do about the education of our children, especially poor black kids in the cities.