Yeomans: Brown, Upside-Down

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Carolyn Bobb

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 14, 2019 – In the latest edition of Yeomans Work, AFJ Senior Justice Fellow Bill Yeomans notes that D.C. Circuit Court nominee Neomi Rao is the latest in a series of Trump judicial nominees who have refused to say whether they think the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education was rightly decided. Writes Yeomans:

“The stated reason is that they don’t want to start down a slippery slope of endorsing and rejecting decisions. That explanation is nonsense, since there are many sticky footholds along the descent from Brown to cases now pending in the courts. The more credible reason is that they don’t want to have to embrace or reject Roe v. Wade. Nor do they want to have to explain why they would endorse Brown, but refuse to opine on Roe, thereby consigning Roe to a less secure class of decisions.”

But Yeomans goes on to make another observation, one that may strike closer to the heart of the issue. “The truth,” he says, “is that conservatives never fully embraced Brown.” Conservatives’ intense resistance to the ruling, he writes, found expression as “an increasingly conservative Supreme Court majority issued a steady stream of rulings narrowing the reach of Brown and eventually redefining its meaning.” The outcome is that conservatives on the Supreme Court today have expressed the belief that the “evil addressed in Brown was the classification of children based on race,” leading to the dizzying conclusion that “limited consideration of race to create diverse schools was indistinguishable from laws that prohibited African American children from attending white schools.”

Therefore, Yeomans observes, “The Brown they [conservatives] celebrate prohibits efforts at racial inclusion, including affirmative action. Conservative nominees celebrate an upside down Brown that has left our schools more segregated than they were in 1954.”

Yeomans Work focuses on the challenges to the justice system in the era of Trump. Bill Yeomans is available for media interviews. Contact Laurie Kinney, Communications Director, at or 202-464-7367.