Multiple African American plaintiffs attempted to gain access to various public schools in southern states and were denied on the basis of their race. The plaintiffs specifically challenged the “separate but equal” doctrine at trial, arguing that it was inherently unconstitutional and therefore violated the equal protection clause. The trial court and lower federal courts of appeal all denied access and cited the constitutional validity of the Plessy v. Ferguson case, which originally established the separate but equal doctrine.
Whether a law that establishes equal funding but separation on the basis of race in schools violates the equal protection clause of the constitution.
Yes, “separate but equal” is an unconstitutional violation of the equal protection clause. Education to students is a public right for students and when it is offered by states it but be done so without any iota of inequality. The separation of the races, even if facilities and funding are entirely identical, is a violation of this public right. The separation of races has an iota of inequality and an element of discrimination because the state actually undertakes to separate. This separation creates two classes of people whereby one class feels inferior to the other; and this is particularly the case when it is done on the basis of race.
The court looks at the impact of the law rather than its doctrinal application. They recognize that practically speaking, while the funding of public education in these states is equal, the outcome is inherently equal, which is why “separate but equal” is “inherently unequal.” Stigmatization and separation can and does have a real world outcome of unfair underdevelopment of African American youth. And because the impact of the law has such an effect, they are clearly being discriminated against in a manner that violates the constitution. As such, the logic and precedential value of Plessy v. Ferguson is overruled.