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Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, March 1995
(A paper submitted to Howard University School of Law)


Modern democracies such as the Indian Union and the United States of America* provide citizens with greater social and political rights, a higher standard of living, more leisure and better educational opportunities1. The extension of these benefits to more and more citizens during the past hundred years or so has been described as the process of the growth of the citizen or basic human equality- the fundamental rights due to individuals by virtue of their membership in a State. With the increasing democratization of governments, the fundamental problem has been to pull down the barriers of segregation and to offer equal opportunities to all. The aim of democracy has everywhere been to eliminate "man made, socially fostered, discrimination that has enlarged for some and has restricted for others avenues that lead to education, income and advancement2."  However, this doesn’t mean a refusal to recognize the natural differences in character and intellect. Owing to the differences in gifts which nature has bestowed on some and denied to others, natural inequality has been and will continue to be a fact in society. Democracy however believes that in a climate of equal opportunities and privileges alone the differences in mental and moral equipment of man can best come out. The chief problems, which every government has to solve, are to reconcile this natural inequality as a fact with the principle of Natural Equality Doctrine3. The author attempts to discuss this reconciliation process in India to provide social and legal equality to the citizens.


So far as the Ancient Indian Culture and Civilization is concerned; the Vedas and Smritis speak highly of equality and brotherhood-'Vasudhaika Kutumbakam (One World One Family)'. "The entire world is a family" was the motto of Vedic civilization4. All had equal opportunity in all walks of life in ancient India. The Vedic age was more liberal in providing equal status to the people. Buddhism, Jainism, Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Sikhism and other indigenous Indian religions also preach the principles of brotherhood and equality.

In the Bhagavadgita (the divine song), Lord Krishna, the philosopher king and the incarnation of the Supreme God, too has preached the equality of all souls. However, the Supreme Lord himself created the four hypothetical classes in the human society on the basis of Guna, i.e., the inherent ability or nature of an individual, and the Karma, i.e., deeds or jobs performed by an individual, and not on the basis of birth5. Whereas the membership in a tribe or caste is determined by birth and is different from the membership in these classes.  These hypothetical four classes are intellectuals and priests (Brahmana varna), rulers and warriors (Kshatriya varna), agriculturists and business persons (Vaishya varna), and artisans and other workers (Shudra varna) in a given society. These four classes include the thousands of real castes and tribes in this world.  Each caste/tribe falls into one of these four hypothetical Vedic classes.

The so-called casteism or the tribalism is based on the tribal and religious differences. Naturally, certain groups have monopolized certain trades. The tribalism segregated the society into ghettos of isolation and exclusiveness, sealing the society into insulated social divisions.  This has been the case in every nation and society.

Added to this were gifts from a millennium of Islamic rule and occupation, such as the Purdah system among women and the child marriages. Then British rulers created a class of loyalists with an emphasis on communal and feudalistic basis and awarded them with titles, patronage and privileges. This created further discriminatory dimensions in the Indian society.

Since ancient times, there have been efforts by enlightened Indians to bring about equality through social and religious reforms, e.g., Lord Budha (5th century BC), Mahavir (5th century BC), Ashoka (2nd century BC), Shankara (7th century AD) etc.  In the beginning of the nineteenth century a new process of social reforms started which received an impetus at the time of independence movement in 20th century. A pioneer among these reformers was Raja Ramamohan Roy.  He compiled and edited the Hindu personal law of marriage, inheritance, religious worship, woman's status, woman's property and caste system, by introducing the most liberal principles of justice and equality. He worked out a synthesis of eastern and western social values and postulates against the common background of humanity6.  He also started a movement for the emancipation of the oppressed classes and urged a return to the original Vedantas and for a total rejection of all the religious and social impurities that had crept into the Indian society7.

Swami Vivekananda strongly condemned the social evil of segregation as a non-Hindu attitude. He said, "It is not in the holy books," and " don't-touchism is a mental disease"8. Mahadev Govind Ranade regarded social advancement as the necessary prelude to political emancipation. Under the moral law, all men and women are equal and it is the supreme duty of man to love man and God with devout sincerity and reverent faith9.

Mahatma Gandhi fought against the social evils of racism, imperialism, communalism and segregation (so-called untouchability). He was very much against social injustices, tyrannies and oppressions. According to Mahatma, 'segregation was not a vital art of Hinduism, but was only an excrescence and a plague10. The list of reformers goes on and on.  It is impossible to describe all reformers of even the modern age in this essay because of time and space limitations.

All socio-political changes in any society result from the thoughts of eminent thinkers. These thoughts influence not only a particular society or country to which a thinker belongs to, but many other parts of the world also. Such has been the case with the ideas and means suggested for attaining the social equality conceived by western thinkers, as well as their Indian counterparts. With the movement of time the notion of equality which was confined merely to social and political thinking became a matter of legal consideration.

As such the awakening in the 19th and 20th centuries is affected by consideration of equality which has been incorporated in the Indian Constitution as well. Thus equality has a history of its own in becoming a legal doctrine.


Discrimination against women in India was prevalent in every sphere of life and most women experience some form of disadvantage, just like in the USA, even today. Law is an important institution in most contemporary societies as it regulates, controls and, in a way, pervades almost every aspect of people’s lives. For majority of Indian women, family life continues to be an important aspect of their existence. Family law plays a greater role in the lives of Indian women than the laws related to pay maternity benefits, property, etc.

In India, religious personal laws govern the family relations, even though it claims to be a secular country.  Unlike in the US, major religions like Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism have their separate laws in the Indian Union, which regulate matters of marriage, divorce, succession, adoption, guardianship and maintenance. These personal laws discriminate against women, e.g., a Muslim man can have four wives where as a woman is not allowed to have four husbands.

The constitution of India guarantees equality, including sexual, to everyone (articles 14 & 15). All laws which are inconsistent with the Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution are void (article 13). Yet religious personal laws that discriminate against women are still valid, not void, even after four decades after the adoption of the Constitution. The State has not adopted a consistent policy with regard to reform of religious personal laws.  The British and the successive Congress governments have extensively reformed the supposed Hindu personal law in order to give equal rights to Hindu men and women. The personal laws of the so-called minorities are left virtually untouched, ostensibly because the leaders of these communities claim that their religious laws are inviolate. The present situation is that the women of the minority communities like Muslims continue to have unequal legal rights.

The opposition to reforms is based on the constitutional right to freedom of conscience, a Fundamental Right by articles 25-28, which claimed to include right to be governed by religious personal laws. The constitution does not resolve the question that if the secular state can interfere in these religious personal laws. Strangely, though there was opposition from Hindu community, the same State has interfered and reformed the Hindu personal law extensively to the extent that it no more resembles any of the zillion Hindu laws for zillion Hindu religions and castes that existed before Muslims and the British came to India.

The situation in the US is quite different.  If American State were to behave like the Indian State, it would be violating establishment clause of the US constitution. Thus, Muslims, Mormons and any other religious minorities will never get special privileges to violate bigamy laws of the US, at least not until these groups acquire strength to determine the fate of a candidate in the elections.

The Indian State does not want to interfere with the religious personal laws other than the Hindu personal law by imposing a Uniform Civil Code (UCC), because of political reasons. The minority groups tend to vote en-bloc and are very intolerant to reform. Any attempt to reform their personal laws is viewed as interference of the State and Hindus in the affairs of minorities, and made out as a big issue which would destabilize the State and the leadership. The opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a right wing nationalistic party supported by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, World Hindu Coalition), is like the Republican Party of America that is supported by the Christian Coalition). The BJP has been advocating for the UCC for a long time. But this party is viewed as a fundamentalist Hindu Party for its advocacy for UCC and its conservative, rightist and capitalist views by the so-called secular and irreligious parties like Congress and Communists, and the leftist dominated Indian mass media.  Fundamentalist Muslim and Christian groups support these so-called secular parties. Also, Western and Indian media brand this party as a Hindu fundamentalist for it has support from VHP.  However, the same media groups do not consider the Republican Party of America as a fundamentalist Christian party even though a very strong Christian Coalition supports it.  So, BJP may never come to power without any alliance with the so-called secular parties and without the Muslim and Christian support, as the coalition government phenomenon in India has become a must. Curiously, this phenomenon coincides with the fall of the Gandhi dynasty and the Soviet Union and opening up of the Indian market.

The present ruling party (Congress Party) has a track record of pampering various minority groups and using 'divide and rule' policy, adopted from British for its political gains. Yet at the same time Congress I successfully claims to be secular. The secular credentials in India depend on how good one pampers the minorities.  Whenever the so-called political goal of national integration allegedly appears to be in jeopardy, the State abandons its efforts to incorporate sex-equality or any other reform in religious personal laws of minorities, and argues that the religious nature of the personal law prevents any intervention by the State. One wonders what prevents the Indian State after disintegration of the British India into three countries purely based on religion and millions of Hindus were wiped out of the face of the earth in Islamic Republics of Pakistan and Bangladesh!

In America, minorities don’t get any special privileges.  In the past 15 years the Republican Party (supported by Christian Coalition) ruled the country for 12 years.  Yet, both the State and the Republican Party are considered secular in the eyes of Western and Indian media.  This indicates that there are two kinds of secularism: Indian secularism and American secularism.  The Indian secularism involves the State’s active participation and support of the establishment of so-called minority religions against the Hindu religions.  American secularism doesn’t allow the State’s active participation in the establishment of majority or minority religions, and the civil and criminal law applies equally to all irrespective of their religion, caste and ethnicity.  It allows the majority religion to flourish and flaunt its power.

I am pretty sure that even if the BJP came to power by chance, it would never implement its pet project, the UCC, for the fear of losing its Muslim and leftist allies and, thereby, the power. The BJP probably would play the same minority card as Congress does today since Hindu groups are mostly leftist or communist.  As a result, the Muslim population has no reason to reform since nobody dares to force reform contrary to as in the case of reform minded Hindu groups dominated by leftist ideology. The Muslim leadership is quite happy with the status quo.

While the law may not be very useful in directly changing the peoples' convictions and values, it can function as a persuasive norm.  In other words, rather than prohibiting certain behavior in absolute terms, law may permit certain behavior, by providing facilities for a pattern of behavior different from the practices followed until then. The availability of a possibility, which was previously not available, unthinkable or not thought about, transforms the psychology of the subjects, as well as the legal possibilities and their expectations and tolerances11.

Thus one measure of effectiveness of a law can be a gradual change in social attitudes, may be a partial change in the actual behavior of some- perhaps the elite of the society- who can in turn serve as role models to be emulated. Such transformation in the behavior of people, if widely achieved, can in turn lead to a structural transformation of institutions as well. For example, Hindu marriage has been transformed in the perception of people, from a polygamous union to a monogamous union in less than 40 years. Although, Lord Rama emphasized on "one wife for life" principle, which is different from Judeo-Christian monogamy which prescribes "one wife at a time" and allows divorce and remarriage; polygamy and polyandry were also acceptable to Indians.  The Hindu Marriage Act, 1956 prohibited polygamy. But, the only person entitled to bring charges against a person guilty of polygamy is the affected spouse.  It does not need to be mentioned that most Indian women are not in a position to bring a legal action against their husbands. Yet, throughout India, Hindus practice only monogamy12, which is essentially a Judeo-Christian principle that was brought to India.  Even extra marital associations such as concubines have disappeared to a large extent.

In India, the legal system is the most corrupt system after bureaucracy. It takes ages to resolve an issue through the court of law. The age-old philosophy of solving the problem outside the court is still valid, even in the USA. If I say that no body ever gets any justice through court in India, it may not be an over exaggeration! For example, Ayodhya temple issue has been in the court for over a century and there seems to be no resolution in the near future. The first case was filed in 1885 by Raghubar Das, mahant of the Ram Janmasthan, seeking permission to build a temple on the site.

But this situation cannot be used to argue that the legal rights are not useful because very few Indians can enforce them. This argument is not a valid reason for not reforming the laws. Thanks to the enlightened elite, leftist or otherwise, the process of reforms that started long before independence still continues. At present the situation for Hindu woman in India is more or less equal to an American woman, at least legally. As pointed out earlier the State can only legislate and change the laws but can not enforce them completely.

The legislation that purports to give individuals personal rights in many matters such as birth control, abortion, marriage or divorce has the potential for yielding more immediate results than the laws that attempt to remove sex discrimination or any discrimination from the overall system. This is because individuals can start the implementation of laws concerning personal matters on their own initiative while laws against discrimination in employment, for example, require institutional enforcement. Even though laws cannot eradicate all the causes of discrimination, they can eliminate its permissive causes - the situation that persists when there is nothing to stop such discrimination.

The movement of middle and upper class women from the home into the labor force began with the safe female -typed jobs such as nursing and teaching and for a few of the more highly skilled women the professions of medicine and law. Although women had been entering these occupations for some time in India, it was the fight for independence that is said to have an impetus that showed them that they were able to assume other roles than those of traditional housewife and mother. This movement of women into employment came at a later date in India than in many western countries13. Indian women have moved successfully into high positions in the political arena also14.  This kind of movement brings in a variety of new problems, such as sexual harassment at work places, problems of ego and so on. As I mentioned earlier, these kinds of problems must be dealt with by institutions, i.e., laws against discrimination are to be enforced by the institutions. Existence of such pieces of legislation and laws would help people to evolve and accept new roles and new situations. For example, it should be very difficult for traditional egoistic male in a patriarchal society to accept a female superior and work under her authority, yet now we see many women making it to the top and be successful in the Indian Union.

It is very tempting to cite the examples of Prime Minister of Pakistan Ms. Benazir Bhutto or Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi for the success story of Indian women.  However, I would like to view their success as a chance rather than true evolution or revolution. In my view, the late Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan Ms. Benazir Bhutto, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Begum Khaleda Zia and the Srilakan President Sirimavo Bandaranaike (the world’s first woman Prime Minister) have attained such high positions not because the society has evolved, but because of the persistence of primitive mentality of the people and medieval tribal tradition of succession of heirs to the throne. They all became leaders mostly because their fathers or their husbands were at the throne and had power.

I cannot visualize this happen in the USA.  I do not intend to diminish the power politics in the US.  However, in the US, a person from humble origins can become president, e.g., President Clinton.  The height of this personality cult and family rule nonsense in India can be exemplified by Rajiv Gandhi’s ascent to power. When his mother was assassinated, he was a political novice. He was a pilot officer and was never before in politics.  But the Congress Party chose him as a leader democratically for lack of any other able and charismatic leader. He became the caretaker Prime Minister till the elections were held and, he was elected as the Prime Minister with a sweeping majority in the parliament.

Though I don't mean to belittle the achievement of Indian women, I wonder if it is a real achievement.  Indian women were lucky that Mr. Nehru didn’t have sons.  Nevertheless, this luck of Indira (Nehru) Gandhi that she was the only heir to Nehru's throne has paved the way for masses to follow and hence the liberation of women and the down trodden. I wonder if a woman ever can become a president of the USA, even as an heir to the throne of a husband or a father! Even in India, I don’t see any possibility for a woman to become the Prime Minister of India, unless Sonia Gandhi takes back the relinquished reins, leads the Congress party and resurrects the Gandhi dynasty.


The so-called “Downtrodden” group in India is not homogeneous. It constitutes of several groups which can broadly be divided in three major divisions, i.e., Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes.  These three broad divisions, each having its own characteristic features, distinctive backgrounds and particular problems, together count for 30% of the total population. All these divisions are found in all religious groups. Almost all religious groups in India are basically converted from various religions/tribes of Hindus, e.g., almost all Christians can trace their origin to a particular Hindu group.  Because Muslims and Christians were the ruling class for centuries, they are considered Forward Class and don’t get any quotas as such. However, most of the Christians and Muslims claim to be scheduled castes or backward classes and are counted as Hindus to obtain certain quotas and benefits.

The term Scheduled Castes as defined in article 366 (24) of the Constitution means "such castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within such castes, races or tribes as are deemed under article 341 of to be scheduled castes for the purpose of this Constitution." In accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, scheduled castes order was promulgated in August 1950, and was amended in 1956. The second category of the downtrodden is the scheduled tribes. The term Scheduled Tribes is defined under article 366(25) as "Scheduled Tribes means such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under article 342 to be scheduled Tribes for the purpose of this Constitution".

One of the crucial problems faced by all tribal communities in India is the problem of integration into the wider social, economic, and political system and, where as for the scheduled castes, the main task is to uplift socially and economically. According to 1991 census the total population of the scheduled castes and tribes is 23.51% of the total population, about 156 million.

The term “backward classes” appears in articles 15(4), 16(4), and 29(2) of the Indian Constitution. The other backward classes are the least homogenous and the most loosely defined of the 3 divisions. Their problems are also in many ways different from those of the first two. Because of this loose definition we find the number castes included into this group grows at the will of politicians and at the public demand.

Like the affirmative action in the USA for Blacks, in India we find several so-called safeguards - a protective discrimination. The Constitutional safe guards for these three groups are found in articles 15 (4), 16 (4), 29 (2) and part XVI of the Constitution. Article 15(4) authorized the State to make any special provision for the advancement of any of these socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the scheduled castes and tribes. American affirmative action is based on the past discrimination and slavery. In America, Blacks were not allowed equal opportunity in educational institutions.  In India, the present educational system is totally based on the British system and was implemented by the British.  Most of the Institutions in India were either established during the British Raj or later. For example, the oldest Universities in Andhra Pradesh are the Andhra University (established by the British in 1925) and the Osmania University (established by the Islamic government of Nizam of Hyderabad State in 1918). Even the so-called upper castes such as the Brahmin tribe, shunned the English education until after independence. So, logically speaking, there was never a discrimination against the so called downtrodden by the so-called upper castes, especially in the educational institutions, since all of them were slaves under the British. If there was any discrimination in those British and Islamic institutions, the reverse discrimination should be against the British (who ruled for a couple of centuries) and the Muslim ruling classes (who ruled for a millennium) rather than the so-called higher castes of Hindus.  However, for political reasons a cancerous reservation/quota system has been adopted in the independent India.  

To begin with, these reservations/quotas are baseless and are purely for political gains.  In addition, the benefits provided to these downtrodden classes exceed the ratio and any reasonable limits. For instance, reservations for these classes in various educational institutions and in government jobs exceed beyond 70% of the total, which is outrageous. In 1963, the Supreme Court enunciated a rough and ready dictum when it observed: “Speaking generally and in a broad way a special provision should be less than 50%, but how much less than 50% would depend upon the prevailing circumstances in each case.” However, in 1986 the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh increased the quotas in various institutions well beyond 70% in total.

The backward class commission had suggested in 1956 an increase in reservations up to 70% for such classes. But this would result in neglecting the interest of the rest of the society. Would such percentage of reservation in favor of these so-called downtrodden classes be justified? The population of these groups together composed a little more than 30% of the total population of the country. The reservations suggested by the commission would not maintain the balance. But, after 40 years, in which period the country had made tremendous progress in aspects including the social status and economic status of the down trodden, the then Prime Minister Mr. V. P. Singh (in 1990-91), claiming to be the champion of the oppressed and downtrodden, brought the backward commission report from cold storage and implemented its recommendations. This was done for pure political gains, which resulted in large-scale agitations and deaths of hundreds of innocent young students and a fresh lease of life and boost to the existing divisions in the society. All of a sudden everybody became more aware of his own caste and religion than ever before. 


In India, politicians like V. P. Singh, still tend to use the “divide and rule” policy to hang on to the power. The reservation and quota policy is a cancer that divides and destroys the harmony of any society.  The implementation of the commission's report became a reality as no political party, unfortunately, has the courage to commit itself against this scourge of quota system. The BJP brought down the V. P. Singh government by pulling out their support for other reasons. But it was too late to prevent the damage.  This reflects not just the opportunistic and dirty politics in India, but also the backwardness in thinking of masses. Everybody wants a free meal and no body wants to realize the cost. 

Education also plays an important role. India has launched a new grandiose scheme of "education for all by the year 2010."  It is basically a project for the dissemination of elementary education in 9 identified states with World Bank aid. The scheme involves a total package that provides for the basic economic needs of the pupils also. For the country with dubious distinction of having the largest number of illiterates in the world (about 281 million), the project underlines a new dynamic approach.


Hopefully with the open market and economic reforms, things might change for the better. If the mass media became free from the government control and leftist so-called secularism of peculiar Indian variety, people might see the reality and understand.

The progress made in the decades for the upliftment of the downtrodden and women, socially, economically and educationally is impressive. But it has not yet reached the level of satisfaction. New laws are to be promulgated taking into account the progress, the pitfalls and failures. The legislature and judiciary should work in cooperation for the benefit of the entire population rather than for a particular group. Hopefully, the changes that are being brought since the beginning of this decade will continue and will give an impetus to the efforts towards social justice and equal opportunities for all and the realization of the Vedic goal of vasudhaiva kutumbakam (One World One Family).


Thompson, Dennis F: John Stuart Mill and Representative Government, (Princeton, NJ, 1976), P. 164.
2. Lipson, Leslie: The Great Issues of Politics, (Bombay 1973), and p.145.
3. Bryce, James: Modern Democracies, Vol. I, The World Press Pvt. Ltd., Calcutta, 1962.
4. Yajur Veda - XXXVI-2.
5. Prtabhavananda, Swami and Isherwood, Christopher, ' The Song of God: Bhagavadgita, p. 51.
6. Seal, Brajendranath, 'Rammohan Roy: The Universal Man', Raja Rammohan Roy Century Volume, part II, Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, Calcutta (1993), pp.108-9.
7. Bose, S.C.; The Indian Struggle, Asia Publishing House, Bombay (1967), P. 20.
8. Vivekananda, Swami: India and Her Problems, (Advaita Ashram, Calcutta, 1963) P. 81.
9. Roy, M. N. and Mukherji, A; India in Transition (Geneva< Edition Se la Libraire, J. B. Target, 1922) P. 177.
10. Gandhi, M. K.: the Voice of Truth, Vol VI (1968). Gandhi, M. K., The Removal of Untouchability, (1954) P. 20.
11. Allot, A. N. (1980) The Limits of Law, London: Butterworths.
12. Archana Parashar, 'Women and Family Law Reform in India', Sage Publications, New Delhi, P.33.
13. Ross, AD, Family and Social Change in Modern India, Carolina Academy, Durham, P.110.
14. Sen, S, 1972, Participation in National Politics', Social Change 2 (March) 23-32
15. In America, the so-called "untouchability," is euphemistically called "segregation," and the downtrodden are blacks and Latinos. In 1896, untouchability (segregation) became a state policy in America due to Plessy vs. Ferguson decision. On May 17th 2004, America celebrates the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education that struck down government-imposed racial segregation in public schools, which now elicits ambivalence rather than elation especially among African-Americans.
See When separate became unequal, Chicago Tribune, Published May 8, 2004 available at:,1,7474377.story
Fifty years later, the Supreme Court's landmark decision in the Topeka, Kan., case of Brown vs. Board of Education offers a striking example of the power of the law--but also its limitations--in provoking social change.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on May 17, 1954, that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional. Until then, "separate-but-equal" facilities for children of different races had been allowed under an 1896 decision, Plessy vs. Ferguson. The Brown ruling attempted to put an end to that travesty: "We conclude that in the field of public education, the doctrine of separate but equal has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."
Yet the court neglected to include in Brown a mechanism for its enforcement. Many states, especially in the South, reacted with foot-dragging and fierce resistance. A year later almost no schools were desegregated and the court took up the case again, issuing a new order for Brown to be enforced "with all deliberate speed." That tentative expression was taken by segregationists to mean "never." Southern mayors, sheriffs and governors stood pat. Prince Edward County, Va., went so far as to close its public schools in 1959 and raise money for a private whites-only academy until the federal government forced its public schools to reopen almost five years later. By the time the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed, 10 years after Brown, fewer than 2 percent of segregated schools had been desegregated.

By the 1980s, legal action ran up against new socioeconomic realities. Desegregation efforts peaked as courts increasingly decided that the goals of Brown had largely been achieved. Segregation persisted, but white flight had left too few white students to spread around the urban public school systems and too few blacks and Latinos in suburban systems. Black and Latino families also began to show less support for integration than for quality education, even if it came without contact with children from other races.

Today, desegregation often has given way to resegregation. Most white students across the country still have little contact with black or Hispanic students--and vice versa. Schools in Illinois and New York are the most segregated for black students, says Harvard researcher Gary Orfield, the primary author of a report on the subject. For Latinos, schools in New York and California are the most segregated. And even schools that appear integrated often turn out to be segregated by classrooms--with more whites and Asian-Americans in classes for the gifted, and more blacks and Latinos in classes for those with special needs.

No one mandates today's resegregation through "Jim Crow" laws or "whites only" signs. The new resegregation results from differences in income more than skin color. Brown helped launch a new era of civil rights demonstrations, confrontations, legislation and reforms that opened doors to new black opportunities. Parents who can afford to move to districts with better schools do so. But too many non-white students are relegated to substandard schools and resources.

America is a better place than it was before Brown. The decision helped Americans open up opportunities and broaden their horizons. Although black and Latino students don't have to sit next to white students in order to learn and perform well, all students benefit from exposure to others who come from backgrounds that are different from their own. In this century of global villages and workplace diversity, "separate" schooling is not only unequal but also unhealthy.
In Illinois, 68% of black students attend a majority black school, 92% of white attend a majority white school, 37% of black students attend a school on academic watch and 0.9% of white students attend a school on academic watch. Chicago Tribune, May 9, 2004.
To learn more about the untouchability in America visit: Still Separate, Unequal , also available hereStill Seeking Unity, also available here; Recalls Segregation, also available here; Back Then and Now, also available here;