Interview with Judge Robert Carter


Judge Robert Carter:

Well, I think the, the impact on the black community was tremendous. I— the impact on the black community was very profound. It, not in terms of schools, because actually I think the statistics show that there are probably more blacks attending segregated schools, all black schools or nearly all black schools today than in 1954. That's because of the migration of blacks to the urban centers where there's concentration and segregated housing, and the schools follow out those patterns. But what the Brown's legacy I think is, that it transformed blacks from being accepting and subservient to being aggressive, demanding, militant. You—if you're told that you have a right to equal justice, and that you have a right to come into this courthouse, and that's your basic right, that you're not coming in here by virtue of the goodwill of somebody else, and they try to keep you out, you're going to fight. And so blacks began to demand their rights in the justice and justice. And that's why you found that this whole transformation from the image—from a sort of a docile, accepting group to a fiercely demanding group insisting on their rights. That's not going to change. Our view was that we were bringing the Supreme Court to interpret the Fourteenth Amendment in the way it was intended. And as a matter of fact, all of the cases that we had brought were designed to show that equal—equal rights, equal educational opportunity, and equal protection required an elimination of discrimination throughout and Fifteenth Amend—the Fifteenth Amendment as well as the Fourteenth Amendment. And the Court beginning in—when it started interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment to eliminate discrimination and the equal protection clause to require equal laws of people similarly situated, it did that on an individual basis. Gaines, for example, the first case that we brought from Missouri—he was entitled to attend the school immediately. Sipewell, the woman from Oklahoma Law School, was entitled to immediately enter the law school. What the court did in Brown was to interpret the Fourteenth Amendment on a group basis. It did not require, and this is the first time the court has made that interpretation, it did not require the immediate admission of these blacks into the school. It was "all deliberate speed." It was faced with what it felt was a problem of acceptance, and so this was what I guess we're going to call judicial statesmanship. But it did not, it was a departure from the traditional interpretation of the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, which is an individualized protection and in that way the court thought that it would, this great change would require less upheaval, but it didn't. It did not, and if it had done, had required immediate—the admission of Blacks and had not broken with its traditional analysis interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, I don't really think it would have made any difference as a practical matter. But it would have, I think it would have made, at least I talk for myself, it would have made me feel a little bit better that the court was not compromising a principle in order to to deal with a political problem. Because I think that whatever it did, there would be this resistance and, which I think continued for roughly about ten years until, you know, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and then it began to more and more to enforce, enforce the matter so that things calmed down, but you had to go through this sort of upheaval. I mean, the court was trying to avoid it, but it couldn't possibly do that.