Sixty-two years ago Tuesday, the Supreme Court passed down its decision in Brown v. Board of Education, finding that “segregation is a denial of the equal protection of the laws.” That decision, pertaining to de jure segregation in public schools, became the groundwork for dismantling many of the formal systems of racial segregation that pervaded both the South and the North in the century following the Civil War. Brown v. Board was a key milestone in the civil-rights movement, and a key weapon for that movement’s future successes.
Ever since, the anniversary of Brown v. Board has provided an opportunity for assessing just how far the country has come since the Jim Crow days of naked segregation. The results have been, at best, mixed. Last year, one such assessment detailed the rise of “apartheid schools” that are virtually all black, and the corresponding re-emergence of de facto segregation in public education. Some schools, such as those of Cleveland, Mississippi, still face new court ordersto integrate. In other policy areas, the “new Jim Crow,” inspired by Michelle Alexander’s book of that name, has come to be used as an apt categorization of broad disparities in criminal-justice policy. Housing segregation is still rampant, and segregation of black people in areas of concentrated poverty has only accelerated in the past decade. But one of the most enduring—and least noticed—areas of racial segregation even after Brown v. Board has been health care.