Topeka became the epicenter 60 years ago of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that dramatically shook the nation from its long practice of legal segregation.
The Brown v. Topeka Board of Education ruling that ended legally segregated schools was just the start. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 followed from the momentum of the civil rights movement to change the nation.
A day ahead of the anniversary of the court ruling, first lady Michelle Obama will be in Topeka on Friday to speak about the landmark ruling. The occasion should spark a new public commitment to finally integrate America.
A lot of work is left to do.
A recent Economic Policy Institute report notes that school segregation remains a major problem: African American children “are segregated mostly because their schools are located in segregated neighborhoods.”
Changing demographics complicates matters more. Latinos today surpass African-Americans as the country’s No. 1 minority.
And the majority of Latinos, like black people, are stuck in a “profound segregation by race, poverty and language status,” a Civil Rights Project examination of southern California schools found. The same could be said about public schools that Hispanic children attend here or in any other urban center.
That should only mean that the celebration of the Brown decision should mark a redoubling of efforts toward integration and the use of all civic, social, religious, entrepreneurial and government tools to make it possible.
The social isolation and concentrated poverty borne from segregation will only worsen conditions for people of color and the country as a whole if the status quo continues unchecked.