The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981 Page: 262
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
four years later, in University of California v. Bakke, the court invali-
dated an affirmative action plan under which a state medical school
had reserved sixteen of one hundred places in each class for members
of racial minorities. That case produced a bevy of opinions, and even
lawyers who read all of them carefully could not be sure precisely what
the court was saying.
Much had changed in the quarter century between Brown and
Bakke. The South, once a citadel of segregation, now had the most
integrated schools in the nation. Federal judges, no longer content to
forbid the exclusion of blacks from educational institutions attended
by whites, ordered that students of both races be bussed to achieve
racial balance in big-city school districts throughout the country. In
operation this ruling was enforced largely on the poor of both races.
While politicians raged against this form of judicial activism, the Su-
preme Court protected the suburbs from the agonies it entailed. Fi-
nally, there were the affirmative action plans, which their proponents
insisted were necessary to correct past wrongs, but which their op-
ponents condemned as reverse discrimination. The difference between
right and wrong, so obvious to all but bigots in 1954, had become diffi-
cult to discern. "The long voyage from Brown to Bakke," writes J.
Harvie Wilkinson, III, "has been one from optimism and confidence
to confusion and doubt" (p. 308).
Wilkinson's lively book effectively conveys the complexity of the
problems with which the Supreme Court has had to wrestle during
these years and the difficulties it faced in resolving cases in which legiti-
mate but seemingly irreconcilable ideals competed for acceptance, such
as integration and the neighborhood school. Although sometimes criti-
cal of the court-which, he feels, gave inadequate guidance to lower
court judges in the years just after Brown v. Board of Education; which
sometimes ducked issues it should have resolved; and which never ac-
corded housing segregation the weight it should have in deciding blame
for racial imbalances in particular school districts--Wilkinson is gen-
erally sympathetic. Notably absent from this book is the polemic casti-
gation which characterizes Lino A. Graglia's Disaster by Decree. In-
deed, if anything Wilkinson vacillates too much and is too reluctant to
draw conclusions and provide answers for the questions he poses.
These failings may be due in part to the fact that this is really a
commentary on school desegregation law rather than a historical mono-
graph. Wilkinson relies almost exclusively upon judicial opinions,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981, periodical, 1980/1981; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101225/m1/298/: accessed August 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.