Silent Covenants

Silent Covenants : Brown V. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Social Reform Racial Justice

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On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously declared that separate educational facilities are "inherently unequal" and, as such, violate the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees all citizens "equal protection of the laws". Hailed as a landmark decision, Brown vs. Board Education promised the nation's citizens equality and racial justice at last. Yet despite Brown's promise for what law and society might be and the awe and respect it evokes with the passing years, it has achieved little and is little used as legal precedent. The noble image, dulled by resistance to any but token steps toward compliance, has transformed Brown into a magnificance mirage, the legal equivalent of that city on a hill to which all aspire without any serious thought that aspiration will ever become attainment. In a sure-to-be controversial work, Derrick Bell argues that though Brown has come to be regarded as the Perfect Precedent, its true lesson is that advocates of racial justice should rely less on judicial decisions and more on tactics, actions, even attitudes that challenge the continuing assumptions of white dominance.Turning history on its head, Bell suggests that if we had had more realism in our racial dealings, we might have kept Plessy, kept separate but equal in placem and attacked instead, at its root, the racial discrimination that continues to haunt the nation. It is only by petitioning for racial justice in forms that whites will realize serve their interests, Bell argues, that true equality will ever be more

Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 165.1 x 236.22 x 17.78mm | 294.83g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195172728
  • 9780195172720

Table of contents

CONTENTS; INTRODUCTION; 1. Plessy's Long Shadow; 2. Brown's Half Light; 3. Brown Reconceived: An Alternate Scenario; 4. The Racial Sacrifice Covenants; 5. The Interest-Convergence Covenance; 6. Brown as an Anti-Communist Decision; 7. The Role of Fortuity in Racial Policy-Making; 8. Racism's Economic Foundation; 9. School Litigation in the Nineteenth Century; 10. The School Desegregation Era; 11. The End of the Brown Era; 12. Brown as Landmark: An Assessment; 13. Affirmative Action and Racial Fortuities in Action; 14. Searching for Effective Schools in the Post-Brown Era; 15. Moving Beyond Racial Fortuity; 16. Conclusionshow more

Review quote

"Bell, always a self-consciously provocative writer, remains true to form in Silent Covenants. In his most creative chapter, Bell imagines an alternative Brown decision that would have upheld segregation but insisted on the equalization of resources between blacks and whites. Had that road been followed, he suggests, black children might have gotten the education they needed and deserved."--Boston Globe"Mournful.... Captures the significance of Brown at the time of its pronouncement and of African Americans' then-unconquerable optimism about the country's ultimate goodness."--Debra J. Dickerson, Mother Jones"Provocatively sardonic.... His pervasive melancholy may surprise readers who expect movement veterans to celebrate victories rather than rue their missteps, but to Bell the very perception of Brown as a victory is a 'mirage' that must be vanquished."--Chicago Tribune"Bell's wide-ranging provocations effectively challenge those who still consider Brown the 'Holy Grail of racial justice.'"--Publishers Weekly"A bold and sobering counterproposal."--The New Yorkershow more

About Derek Bell

Derrick Bell is Visiting Professor of Law at New York University Law School. He was for 15 years a member of the Harvard Law School faculty. As an NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer, he handled and supervised hundreds of school desegregation cases during the 1960s. He is the author of several books including Race, Racism and American Law, Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth, Confronting Authority: Reflections of an Ardent Protester, Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism, and And We Are Not Saved. He lives in New York more

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106 ratings
4.17 out of 5 stars
5 39% (41)
4 44% (47)
3 14% (15)
2 2% (2)
1 1% (1)
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