Educational equality has a long way to go, according to
Christopher Edley, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at
Harvard University.

Laura Wong
Christopher Edley, Jr., co-director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, speaks about the persistence of racial disparities yesterday at the Michigan Union Ballroom. (JOEL FRIEDMAN/Daily)

Although the law now forces integration at schools and the
workplace, continuing disparities exist between people of different
races. Fifty years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark
Brown v. Board of Education ruling, there are still achievement
disparities in K-12 education, Edley said.

“The question is not whether school integration is
desirable — because surely it is — but whether we care
enough about it to do something. The question is the degree of our
determination to close racial disparities,” said Edley, dean
of the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California,
Berkeley.

Yesterday afternoon in the Michigan Union Ballroom, a packed
audience listened to Edley’s lecture, part of the University
Library’s theme semester, “Fulfilling the Promise
— Brown v. Board of Education 50th Anniversary
Commemoration.”

Edley emphasized affirmative action as one means of school
integration. “Affirmative action is far from a cure-all. It
is a limited tool for a limited purpose. Nevertheless, it is worth
fighting for. Affirmative action gives us a simple tool to use
against that simple human tendency to choose people like ourselves.
Diversity is critical to success.”

Edley added that he is a strong supporter of the
University’s race-conscious admissions policies and helped to
write one of the briefs for the court during its admissions
lawsuits. However, Edley said he’s worried that people
believe the fight for affirmative action ended with the
court’s ruling last summer.

“Now the question is mobilizing people to combat the
ballot initiative because I’m worried that people will
mistakenly believe that because they won the vote it’s time
to relax,” added Edley.

According to Edley, despite popular belief, discrimination is
still a serious problem in America. “There are certainly
continuing disparities in wages for people with identical
credentials and experience as well as disparities in hiring. There
is no shortage of evidence that there is discrimination in
employment, credit and housing. These problems are still very
real,” said Edley.

However, he warned that eliminating discrimination will be
challenging. “First, we must re-dedicate ourselves to
completing the racial agenda because old discrimination is all too
alive and well, and this must change. Secondly, our political
leaders must be dedicated to the pursuit of a society where there
is no color-coding.”

In closing, Edley encouraged students to get involved in civil
rights. “Whatever career you may choose for yourself, whether
it be a doctor, lawyer or teacher, let me propose an additional
task — be a dedicated fighter for civil rights. You will make
a greater person for yourself, a better nation for your country and
a better world to live in.”

Edley said that his work with civil rights makes his career as a
lawyer not only intellectually interesting, but spiritually
nourishing as well.

Brown changed the face of education forever. “I think it
still would have come about anyways, but I’m a minority too
so there’s a chance that I might not even be here and people
wouldn’t know as much about me and Indian culture,”
said Engineering senior Rahul Sathe. Without Brown v. Board of
Education , life at the University could be very different, he
said.

Throughout the semester there will be several more civil rights
events. University Librarian William Gosling said the University
wants to make students aware of discrimination in America today.
“This is our seventeenth year for doing these programs
because you have to keep repeating the message. This is an annual
opportunity, in a large forum of students, faculty, and people of
the community, to bring people together and reinforce the
message,” he said.

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