Race distinction vs. race discrimination — a fine line indeed

“North Carolina has a law that white and Negro children shall not attend the same schools, but that separate schools shall be maintained. If the terms for all the public schools in the State are equal in length, if the teaching force is equal in numbers and ability, if the school buildings are equal… then race distinction exists but not a discrimination….

“If scientific investigation and experience show that in the education of the Negro child emphasis should be placed on one course of study, and in the education of the white child, on another, [then] it is not a discrimination to emphasize industrial training in the Negro school and classics in the white school. There is no discrimination so long as there is equality of opportunity….”

— From “Race Distinctions in American Law” by Gilbert Thomas Stephenson (1910) 

“Separate but equal” had been approved in Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896) and would remain the law of the land until Brown vs. Board of Education (1954).


Nixon’s nuance was just the ticket in Greensboro

“In Greensboro, North Carolina, Nixon told his audience that he had a unique understanding of their difficult problem, meaning the race issue, because of the three years he had spent in their midst at Duke University Law School. He talked little about civil rights but spoke extensively about the Democrats’ threats to use federal authority to enforce civil rights. Then he connected that to state education: ‘But let us never forget that…  one of the essences of freedom in this county is local and state control of the educational system….’

“That was enough to satisfy any white Southerner in 1960 that Nixon and the Republicans would keep their hands off segregation.”

— From “The First Modern Campaign: Kennedy, Nixon and the election of 1960” by Gary Donaldson (2007)