On July 9, Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted:
Two decades after Brown v. Board, I was only the second class to integrate at Berkeley public schools. Without that decision, I likely would not have become a lawyer and eventually be elected a Senator from California.
That’s the power a Supreme Court Justice holds.
Harris’ election to the Senate is one of the lesser reasons to celebrate Brown v. Board. Moreover, it’s far from clear that Harris wouldn’t have become a lawyer without attending an integrated public school. Plenty of African-Americans became lawyers without having that benefit.
But is it even true that Harris was in only the second class to integrate at Berkeley public schools? Based on an examination of old yearbooks from Berkeley High, Freida Powers reports that classrooms at Berkeley High were already integrated in 1963, a year before Harris was born.
Maybe Harris meant that she was part of only the second integrated class to proceed all the way from kindergarten through high school in Berkeley. But even if that’s true, and it seems implausible given the early integration of the high school, it’s ludicrous to suggest that attending a segregated kindergarten would have prevented her from becoming a lawyer and Senator.
No one can deny the power of the Supreme Court. Harris doesn’t need to embellish a personal story to demonstrate it.
Nor can anyone deny that Brown v. Board was a momentous decision. However, its impact has been overrated.
Given the way American was moving in the years following that 1954 Supreme Court decision, it’s difficult to believe that Berkeley, California would not have integrated its public schools by time Harris entered public school — some time around 1969, five years after Congress passed the sweeping Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The black students pictured in the 1963 year book may have been beneficiaries of Brown v. Board. Kamala Harris almost certainly was not.
Some compare Harris to Barack Obama. They seem, at least, to have in common a penchant for false or misleading statements about their background.