A regional leader of black churches today joined critics of a U.S. Supreme Court decision involving court-ordered school desegregation, saying it will lead to re-segregation.
Since the historic Brown vs. Board of Education decision 38 years ago, many blacks have perceived that federal judges were on their side in the fight for integration, said the Rev. H. Hartford Brookins, bishop of the Second District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Now it appears as though federal judges, who enforce federal desegregation orders, will join those "who have been against us all along," he said.
Bishop Brookins, speaking briefly to reporters at Waters A.M.E. Church in East Baltimore, used the occasion to accuse Presidents Bush and Reagan of trying to shoot down advances in integration.
Many of the current Supreme Court justices "were appointed by Ronald Reagan and George Bush. What else can we expect?"
Bishop Brookins spoke during the 176th annual conference of A.M.E. churches in Baltimore and other parts of Maryland.
As he registered his complaints about the court ruling from the pulpit, conference attendees backed him up with applause and shouts of support.
"We shall still overcome," Bishop Brookins declared. "We are not going to be shackled and stand on the side."
He said the 8-0 ruling issued Tuesday in a case involving an Atlanta area school district will mean many black children will be stuck with inferior, under-funded school systems.
In his statements today, Bishop Brookins said busing of students and other desegregation measures are not always the answer.
But because whites have moved away from urban school districts such as Baltimore, cities are not getting their fair share of education funding.
"What will result from this decision is a continuing growth of inadequate school systems serving black communities," he said. "The systems are already economically imbalanced where blacks dominate and therefore the education is imbalanced."
Bishop Brookins oversees 300 A.M.E. churches in Maryland, Washington, Virginia and North Carolina.
In Maryland, Prince George's County is the only school district under a school desegregation order.
In the Georgia case, the high court established new guidelines for deciding when a school district can come out from under a desegregation order.
There can be partial relief, the court said, rather than the need to satisfy all requirements at once.
The court also acknowledged the distinction between segregation brought on by the policies of a school district and segregation occurring as a result of population shifts or housing patterns that can't be blamed on a school system.
"Where re-segregation is a product not of [official] action but of private choices, it does not have constitutional implications," the court said.
Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks, executive director of the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said this week the court's ruling would bring a "proliferation" of court cases from districts seeking relief from desegregation orders.
The ruling also will force "civil rights activists to monitor educational disparities and to bring such to the attention of the courts, thus increasing litigation," Dr. Hooks said.