A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Thursday, July 23, 2009

An apology for supporting segregation in Virginia

Well, I guess this is "better late than never."
A Virginia newspaper expressed regret Thursday for supporting a systematic campaign by the state's white political leaders to maintain separate public schools for blacks and whites in the 1950s.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch acknowledged in an editorial that it and its now-defunct sister newspaper, The News Leader, played a central role in the "dreadful doctrine" of Massive Resistance. "The record fills us with regret," the newspaper said.

The newspaper took the unusual step of promoting the editorial on its front page. The editorial was published on the eve of a conference in Richmond marking the 50th anniversary of the end of Massive Resistance, which was dismantled by a 1959 court ruling.

Massive Resistance was Virginia's answer to Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that outlawed school segregation. Endorsed at the highest levels of state government and promoted by U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd, the policy cut funds to any school that dared to integrate.

"The hour was ignoble," the editorial says. "Editorials in The News Leader relentlessly championed Massive Resistance and the dubious constitutional arguments justifying its unworthy cause. Although not so intimately engaged, The Times-Dispatch was complicit."

Words are indeed powerful. Although, these words of apology would certainly have been more powerful if they hadn't waited fifty years to utter them.

You know, I've heard apologists for segregation repeatedly act as if the problems of the civil rights movement were purely a "Deep South" phenomenon, all a part of the "it's just a part of the Southern culture" mumbo-jumbo-- that it was in places like Mississippi and Alabama and South Carolina, especially areas where blacks outnumbered whites, that the worst kinds of race relations took place. That kind of thinking flies in the face of facts, such as that Linda Brown lived in Topeka, KANSAS. They also ignore the fact that the Brown case was actually five cases combined together: besides the Topeka action, lawsuits from Prince Edward County, Virginia; Summerton, South Carolina; Claymont, Delaware; and Washington, D.C were part of the Brown decision. Although Delaware was technically a Northern state, as was Kansas, our nation's capital was (and is) a Southern city. The evils of segregation and discrimination remain a legacy ALL Americans must acknowledge.

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