Michelle Obama was originally scheduled to appear in Topeka for a joint event for all high school graduates of 2014. The day is important in Kansas history and American history, as it represents an anniversary of Brown V Board of Education.
May 17 is the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision that prohibited Southern states from segregating schools by race. The Brown decision annihilated the “separate but equal” rule, previously sanctioned by the Supreme Court in 1896, that permitted states and school districts to designate some schools “whites-only” and others “Negroes-only.” More important, by focusing the nation’s attention on subjugation of blacks, it helped fuel a wave of freedom rides, sit-ins, voter registration efforts, and other actions leading ultimately to civil rights legislation in the late 1950s and 1960s. But Brown was unsuccessful in its purported mission—to undo the school segregation that persists as a central feature of American public education today.While many things would integrate over the years, schools would be amongst the most difficult to integrate. There would be many reasons for this at first - boards rejecting, battles to get kids into schools.
But in the end, it was flight and money that pulled white children away from mixed communities and upended moved schools back on a path toward segregation. Interesting, then, that in a Kansas Legislative Session, Kasha Kelley (R-Arkansas City) asked:
Are we really better off since Brown V Board of Education?The state of Kansas just finished up an education bill that does more to encourage kids to leave schools, with tax credits for those who have the money and the resources to move to private (and often) less integrated schools.
In order to celebrate the anniversary of Brown V Board of Education, Michelle Obama had planned to speak to the combined students of USD 501, Topeka Kansas, where this landmark decision originated.
That's not what will happen now.
As reported by WIBW and confirmed by the White House, Michelle Obama will not speak at these students graduation, and that has been moved to a different event that they do not have to attend.
She had planned to speak May 17 at a combined graduation ceremony for five high schools. That had raised complaints there wouldn’t be room for all the guests. Under the new plan, the first lady will speak at a “senior recognition day” ceremony on May 16 that presumably wouldn’t be as crowded.Because this is held at one school now, and there will be no combined event, attendance will of course be significantly reduced.
With the combined ceremony scrapped, the five schools will each hold its own graduation exercises.
If expanding the guest list to include Michelle Obama at graduation for high school students in the Kansas capital city means fewer seats for friends and family, some students and their parents would prefer the first lady not attend.The rally cry for Topeka Parents, who stood up and protested was that Michelle Obama doesn't 'Know their kids'. Then again, when George Brett spoke to a local high school a few years ago, I doubt he had a lot of time to go hands on with a lot of students.
A furor over what the Topeka School District considers an honor has erupted after plans were announced for Obama to address a combined graduation ceremony for five area high schools next month at an 8,000-seat arena.
Some were upset by the prospect of a tight limit on the number of seats allotted to each graduate. For others, it was the notion that Obama’s speech, tied to the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in schools, would overshadow the students’ big day.
“I’m a single mother who has raised him for 18 years by myself,” said Tina Hernandez, parent of Topeka High School senior Dauby Knight. “I’ve told him education is the only way out. This is one of the biggest days of their lives. They’ve taken the glory and shine from the children and put on Mrs. Obama. She doesn’t know our kids.”
Instead, what these kids are going to miss is something special - they will miss out on being part of history, a reminder that Brown V. Board of Education occurred here, and that as a nation, 60 years ago, we began to move toward working with each other, and building a society where all would participate.
But that message doesn't mean much in comparison to students who can take selfies and enjoy an education system in Kansas that has just been through a session of dismantling in the State House a few blocks away.
Kasha Kelley asked if we were better since Brown V Board.
Maybe she had a better point than she realized.
1:33 PM PT: Minor Update So this afternoon they are already prepping the discussion on our local conservative talk radio. As time has gone on since this was announced, I wanted to add a small note.
I do realize that there were legitimate issues of logistics to work out; since students were only provided 6 direct invites, many family members would have had to watch on Closed Circuit at a nearby hotel or at any of the schools who were also offering close circuit viewing. I recognize that may have not been good enough for them... though frankly, I would prefer a well shot video that showed me my kid then a view from the cheap seats.
In 1954, before the US Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall argued that seperate was not equal. Despite claims by the defendant otherwise, and that logistical concerns would plague integration, in a unanimous decision the USSC ruled that integration was the rule, and Plessy v. Ferguson would be overturned.
Thurgood Marshall would later become a USSC Justice. The Topeka Administration building would later be named after the NAACP member who pushed for the case, McKinley Burnett.
There were logistical issues, that's true, and I don't want to minimize the way individuals felt. But the way history will remember this is that 60 years to the day after Brown V. Board adopted this policy, the first African American FLOTUS offered to speak before the classes of students who would graduate from those schools.. and for logistical reasons, she would be denied, and told a separate ceremony, which would not be graduation for these students, would be 'good enough'.