In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas that segregated schools were unconstitutional. This ruling overturned the long held standard of “separate but equal” that was established by the Court in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). In theory, the Brown ruling also eliminated segregated educational facilities. Sixty years after the Brown decision, the issue of racial segregation in public schools is still an area of concern for parents, students and policymakers. There are growing suspicions on the part of many observers that, although the United States is definitely becoming more diverse in general, an interesting pattern is unfolding in our public schools that is giving way to what some are referring to as school resegregation. However, for me and many others who were educated in public schools in the Deep South, the idea of resegregation seems somewhat foreign because our schools never integrated.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I cannot help but think of two women, Mildred and Claudine. Mildred, of course, is my mother. Claudine is Diahann Carroll’s character from the 1974 movie “Claudine”, and she is the fictional depiction of my mother and so many other mothers in the U.S. today. Claudine is a single mother of six who works as a maid, albeit secretly so that she can still qualify for welfare. She falls in love with a garbage man, Rupert (James Earl Jones). However, as Claudine and Rupert’s relationship grows, they quickly realize that they live and operate in a socio-political system that is rigged against them.