I enjoyed Samuel Francis’s lucid analysis of the 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education (“Forty Years After,” May 1994), but I take exception to his argument that “the only feasible moral defense of the Brown decision today is not that it replaced force with freedom, but that it replaced one kind of free but morally inferior conduct (segregation) with unfree but morally superior conduct (integration).”
This argument can be dismissed out of hand for the same reason cited by Mr. Francis in the very next sentence: because such a defense is “preposterous.” It relies upon the fallacious proposition that coerced racial integration or equality of outcome (substitute any civil rights catch phrase) is a more morally attractive condition than voluntary racial segregation or equality of opportunity, regardless of the immorality of the means necessary for the realization of such a condition. Even if one were to cast the decision in the most elementary moral framework by asking whether the rule will do more good than harm, or whether it will serve to help more people than it portends to injure, moral philosophy of any school is insufficient to demonstrate that Brown is itself moral, let alone more acceptable than its converse—the freedom to dissociate. Considering he concludes correctly that there is no reasonable defense of the Brown decision today, I am inclined to wonder what prompted Mr. Francis to mention such a defense in the first place, least of all in possession of the modifier “feasible.”
—Jeffrey M. Kane
Dr. Francis Replies:
After a good deal of verbosity, Mr. Kane at length uncovers the meaning of what I said in the first place—a feasible defense (i.e., a defense capable of being done, “do-able,” as we say in Washington) may also be a preposterous defense. I did not say a “logically valid,” “morally compelling,” or “factually sound” defense, but a “feasible” defense. I know of no other word (except perhaps “possible,” which is too broad for my meaning) to convey what I wanted to convey, which Mr. Kane and most everyone else understood anyhow. Since I rejected this “feasible defense” as “preposterous” in the next sentence and offered the same reasoning for this rejection that Mr. Kane offers, and since Mr. Kane acknowledges that I rejected it for that reason, I cannot understand why he bothered to write a letter at all, or for that matter why I am bothering to respond to it.