Cornell Law Review Volume 90 Issue 2

Betrayal of the Children with Dolls: The Broken Promise of Constitutional Protection for Victims of Race Discrimination

The Brown decision brought to the forefront many of the unfulfilled constitutional vows made to prior generations.  At the time of the nation’s independence, the Founders extended declarations of equality to only a select few.  Nearly a century later, following the Civil War, a new constitutional promise ensured that victims of slavery would share full rights of citizenship and that racial subordination would become a thing of the past.  In Brown, the Court acknowledged the failure of prior generations to fulfill this promise.

Half a century later, this Symposium invites us to assess Brown‘s aftermath and provides an opportunity to ask whether, on this third time around, our generation has kept the promise.  Answers to this question should again be assessed from the same perspective as that which resonated with the Justices in Brown: the image of children choosing dolls.  Claims of formal equality should be challenged if they conflict with the experiences of girls and boys on the playground, in their homes, and in their communities.  In other words, Brown‘s legacy should be judged by asking whether victims of race discrimination now receive genuinely equal treatment.


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