Sixty-four years after Brown v. Board of Education, New Jersey civil rights leaders today announced the filing of a lawsuit in state court to finally integrate New Jersey schools.
The original case, litigated by future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall on behalf of the NAACP, prevailed on the nation’s highest court to declare unconstitutional state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students. The decision overturned 1896’s Plessy v. Ferguson, which allowed state-sponsored segregation.
Today, a coalition organized as the New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools, including the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and the Latino Action Network, and Shiloh Baptist Church, the African American Chamber of Commerce and others, decried the existing, still unrectified educational divide in this state.
“New Jersey’s public schools are as segregated by race and poverty today as they were in 1954,” said Ryan P. Haygood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “Sixty-four years after Brown, we have important promises to keep and still others to make to New Jersey’s students. This case is about finally making good on our promises.”
Haygood noted that the state’s racial diversity and racial segregation, in combination with its extreme wealth and punishing poverty, has fostered some of the fiercest segregation by race, ethnicity, and poverty in this country:
- The median net worth for New Jersey’s white families is $271,402—the highest in America.
- The median net worth for New Jersey’s Hispanic and Black families is just $7,020 and $5,900, respectively, together totaling less than 5 percent of the net worth of white families in the state.
- Of the approximately 585,000 Black and Latino public school students in New Jersey, 63% of them attend schools that are more than 75% non-white.
- Nearly half of all Black and Latino public school students attend schools that are more than 90% non-white.
- More than 40 percent of white students attend schools that are at least 75% white.
“New Jersey cannot fulfill the promise of Brown, or the promise owed to our kids, without this lawsuit,” said Haygood. “No amount of good will, well wishes, or optimism will accomplish the systemic relief and fundamental transformation that is required. Integration is possible, it is necessary, and it is long overdue.”
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