Plessy v. Ferguson was an influential Supreme Court case in 1896 that ruled segregation in public facilities constitutionally sound under the principle of “separate but equal”.

Over 100 years have passed, are we still “Separate but Equal”?

sc-williampughUnfortunately, I believe we are in many facets of our daily lives. I believe that this issue is seldom brought to light and discussed in a meaningful manner because we are too afraid to engage in this type of difficult dialogue. It is time for this mentality to change, it is time for us to change, and it is time for us to make a change.

If you do not believe that there are aspects of daily life that are separate but claim to be “equal”, look at our education system. Minority students are far too often found in low performing schools and poor neighborhoods, while their Caucasian counterparts are afforded the opportunity to attend high performing schools and take more rigorous classes? It is a trend, that if not acknowledged will not bode well for our future.

Over 100 years have passed, are we still “Separate but Equal”?

sc-williampugh_blog_timegraphic_0I am a Junior and attend a “high performing” school, Academic Magnet High School, a nationally ranked public school in Charleston, South Carolina. While the community is mainly comprised of minority citizens, the school doesn’t reflect that reality. Schools should reflect the communities they serve, particularly when those communities have been denied quality education choices for decades.

Are we still “Separate but Equal”?

In the year 2015, there is no excuse for such a disparity in public education. We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that not every child is receiving a well-rounded and complete education. This is nothing less than a civil rights issue.

True education is not just about getting students prepared to make a perfect score on their ACT. It is about preparing them for success in life, and ensuring children have every opportunity to succeed both academically and socially. Isolating students into interactions with their own race, class, and perspective is not the path toward a genuine education. One of my classmates, Alexandra Hepburn, said it well, “Diversity moves us from merely recognizing and tolerating our differences, to respecting and embracing them”. We must work to ensure that our classrooms are diverse and that every child is given an equal opportunity to succeed.

Throughout my years, I have learned that it is impossible to complete a puzzle with just one piece.

Education is like a puzzle and each of us adds our own piece. In order to complete the full puzzle, we must all be able to come together, work together, and share our perspectives, as one.

Are we still “Separate but Equal”?

If so, what are we doing about it?

William Pugh
Co-Founder of S.A.M.E
Students Advocating for Multicultural Education

William Pugh, a Junior at Academic Magnet High School in Charleston, South Carolina, is the Co-Founder of a student advocacy organization entitled S.A.M.E. (Students Advocating for Multicultural Education), which is aimed at increasing diversity in high-performing schools.

He enjoys playing tennis and is currently working on completing his Eagle Scout ranking in Boy Scouts. Pugh is an aspiring biomedical researcher or oncology physician and hopes to leave his community better than the way he found it.

The quote he lives by is from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”


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