Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform

Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform

by Derrick Bell
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Oxford University Press
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Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform

When the landmark Supreme Court case of Brown vs. Board of Education was handed down in 1954, many civil rights advocates believed that the decision, which declared public school segregation unconstitutional, would become the Holy Grail of racial justice. Fifty years later, despite its legal irrelevance and the racially separate and educationally ineffective state of public schooling for most black children, Brown is still viewed by many as the perfect precedent.

Here, Derrick Bell shatters the shining image of this celebrated ruling. He notes that, despite the onerous burdens of segregation, many black schools functioned well and racial bigotry had not rendered blacks a damaged race. He maintains that, given what we now know about the pervasive nature of racism, the Court should have determined instead to rigorously enforce the "equal" component of the "separate but equal" standard. Racial policy, Bell maintains, is made through silent covenants—unspoken convergences of interest and involuntary sacrifices of rights—that ensure that policies conform to priorities set by policy-makers. Blacks and whites are the fortuitous winners or losers in these unspoken agreements. The experience with Brown, Bell urges, should teach us that meaningful progress in the quest for racial justice requires more than the assertion of harms. Strategies must recognize and utilize the interest-convergence factors that strongly influence racial policy decisions.

In Silent Covenants, Bell condenses more than four decades of thought and action into a powerful and eye-opening book.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195182477
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 09/01/2005
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 8.80(w) x 5.60(h) x 0.70(d)

Table of Contents

1.Plessy's Long Shadow11
2.Brown's Half Light14
3.Brown Reconceived: An Alternative Scenario20
4.The Racial-Sacrifice Covenants29
5.The Interest-Convergence Covenants49
6.Brown as an Anticommunist Decision59
7.The Role of Fortuity in Racial Policy-Making69
8.Racism's Economic Foundation77
9.School Litigation in the Nineteenth Century87
10.The School Desegregation Era94
11.The End of the Brown Era114
12.Brown as Landmark: An Assessment130
13.Affirmative Action and Racial Fortuity in Action138
14.Searching for Effective Schools in the Post-Brown Era160
15.Moving Beyond Racial Fortuity180

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Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book as my choice for an optional reading for a college class 'Philosophy of Law'. I would highly recommend it because it leaves you thinking about the history and progression of civil rights in our country. His views are out of the norm but you have to ask yourself who's norm?He poses some leading questions about racial equality and whether we could or should do more in the effort to end discrimination and prejudice.