POLITICS
05/17/2019 14:18 EDT | Updated 05/17/2019 17:05 EDT

Kamala Harris Reflects On Brown v. Board Impact For Ruling's Anniversary

The senator and 2020 presidential candidate started school only one year after her public school system began integrating students.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on Friday marked the 65th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, which paved the way for the desegregation of public schools, by referencing the ruling’s impact on her own life.

“I likely wouldn’t be a U.S. Senator,” she tweeted, recalling that she was an elementary school student shortly after officials began integrating her school district in Berkeley, California. 

Her office said last year that Harris, whose parents were immigrants from Jamaica and India, began attending Berkeley’s Thousand Oaks Elementary School in 1969, one year after the Berkeley Unified School District first began to fully integrate its schools.

“I only learned later that we were part of a national experiment in desegregation with working-class black children from the flatlands being bused in one direction and wealthier white children from the Berkeley hills bused in the other,” Harris wrote in her recent memoir, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey.”

The landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision ruled that the racial segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. But the decision took many years to go into effect, as many schools across the country continued to resist desegregation, and lawmakers and school officials had heated debates over its implementation.

According to academic studies at the time, officials in Berkeley began to fully integrate the school system in 1968. The city was the first to adopt the controversial practice of busing students to implement desegregation, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time.

Harris was bused to her school from where she lived, according to local outlet Berkeleyside. Her neighborhood was part of an area affected by redlining, the practice of delineating neighborhoods with predominantly poor and minority residents and discouraging banks from serving them — effectively segregating them from more affluent white neighborhoods. 

The effects of these mechanisms of de facto segregation remain today, including in public schools.