(Photo: Reuters/Sait Serkan Gurbuz)
Sixty years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision to desegregate America's schools, segregation in America's classrooms remains as problematic as it was when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his final speech, says First Lady Michelle Obama.
Speaking last Friday to 1,200 high school seniors on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the historic decision in Topeka, Kansas, where the case began, Obama said desegregation is now in reverse by some measures.
"So today, by some measures, our schools are as segregated as they were back when Dr. King gave his final speech. And as a result, many young people in America are going to school largely with kids who look just like them. And too often, those schools aren't equal, especially ones attended by students of color, which too often lag behind, with crumbling classrooms and less experienced teachers," said Obama in remarks posted on whitehouse.gov.
"And even in schools that seem integrated according to the numbers, when you look a little closer, you see students from different backgrounds sitting at separate lunch tables, or tracked into different classes, or separated into different clubs or activities," she added.
"So while students attend school in the same building, they never really reach beyond their own circles. And I'm sure that probably happens sometimes here in Topeka too. And these issues go well beyond the walls of our schools. We know that today in America, too many folks are still stopped on the street because of the color of their skin or they're made to feel unwelcome because of where they come from, or they're bullied because of who they love," she continued to applause.
"So graduates, the truth is that Brown v. Board of Education isn't just about our history, it's about our future. Because while that case was handed down 60 years ago, Brown is still being decided every single day –- not just in our courts and schools, but in how we live our lives," Obama added.
She then challenged the students to help fight prejudice and discrimination by starting in their own families.
"Maybe that starts simply in your own family, when grandpa tells that off-colored joke at Thanksgiving, or you've got an aunt who talks about 'those people.' Well, you can politely inform them that they're talking about your friends," she said to applause.
Watch her full speech below: