The Heart of Equal Protection: Education and RaceUF Law Faculty Publications
AbstractBrown vs. Board of Education established more than the unconstitutionality of the separate but equal doctrine in public education. Brown also gave the importance of education a constitutional dimension. Involuntary racial segregation creates a stigma wherever it exists which indisputably affects all children's self-esteem by possibly undermining that of children of color and by artificially inflating that of White children. Unfortunately, more recent cases that raise questions about the right to a public education seem less willing to acknowledge the importance of education and the importance of integration in public education. Since Brown, the Court has held repeatedly that education is not a fundamental right. Ironically, the educational equality aspect of Brown seems to be diminishing in importance in cases quite similar to it -- cases where the children being denied equal educational opportunities are disproportionately children of color and poor children. Moreover, the Supreme Court's decision in Missouri v. Jenkins sends the resounding message that integrating public schools is no longer a priority. Jenkins and the other post-Brown decisions seriously undermine our commitment to both racial equality and educational equality as announced in Brown. The concept of emotional intelligence offers a way to gain a better understanding of race relations. Emotional intelligence, broadly defined, is a way to describe how well a person is able to manage his or her emotions in different situations. Someone with high emotional intelligence, for example, has a solid understanding of his or her own emotions, but also is adept at being able to read the emotions of others and empathize with them. Developing children's emotional intelligence provides hope that they will be able to achieve and sustain healthy race relations, which, in turn, will translate into a more equal society. A full set of emotional talents cannot be gained in the context of segregation. Insights into the connections between education and emotional intelligence can be helpful in understanding and healing racial divisions in our society, and in providing a means to eliminate some of the forces that contribute to social, economic, and racial inequality. If the goal is to achieve racial equality and to use emotional intelligence skills to help achieve that goal, involuntarily segregated schools hinder progress toward the goal.
Citation InformationSharon E. Rush, The Heart of Equal Protection: Education and Race, 23 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 1 (1997), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/172