I wrote this piece in response to a NYTimes article which examines a current Supreme Court case which argues Detroit Public Schools are unconstitutional. If you have not read
the article, the link is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/21/opinion/are-detroits-most-terrible-schools-unconstitutional.html?_r=0. This article highlights a current Michigan Supreme Court case in which the plaintiff asserts that Michigan is not providing Detroit (Black) students enrolled in public education with an adequate education. The article argues the basis of this case revolves around the question “is it constitutional to provide the majority of the students with adequate education and a minority of students with an inadequate education?” In short, there is nothing in American history to suggest that this is unconstitutional – and that is the problem.
Of course, the catch 22 for Black people and justice in the U.S. is that the document that we must rely on for the highest order of justice, i.e the Constitution, was also the document that enshrined our oppression with the description of us as 3/5s of human beings. The document has never been overhauled to include ideas of restorative justice and so it is not equipped to then really deal with justice when questions such as those raised by the Detroit school system are brought to it. Of course its not just for huge swaths of students to not get an education, but even the premise of the case, that students should get a modicum of education is not just. Actually, Black students should get a wholly different and more deeply invested in education to make up for the intentional under investment, but the Constitution shows no awareness of this idea and so of course that can’t be argued.
The challenge of proving that this is unconstitutional is two-fold. First, the lawyers of the plaintiffs must force a document that has been used to promote and defend the disenfranchisement of Black people to protect Black people. Secondly, in the process of forcing an inherently racist document to for once, not be racist, the lawyers of the plaintiffs must show that the state is intentionally disenfranchising Black children. White supremacy’s most powerful weapon is its disguise and forcing people to prove its existence using tools that were created to disguise it. Regardless of the outcome of this case, the Constitution has repeatedly protected the state and its refusal to educate Black children. So, NYT, let’s not confuse the arguments and “complex” debates of constitutionality with something much more simple, justice.