By Mohammed Saif-Alden Wattad

From The Munk Centre for International Studies

Abstract: Plessy and  Brown represent deep, but also unique, understandings of the intersection between law and society. Equal protection analysis suggests that both are plausible holdings. Equal protection analysis is the wrong path for Americans to take if they want to end discrimination once and for all. For the law to interact successfully with society, the judiciary must understand the meaning of  human dignity, which focuses on the humiliation that results when people are differentiated on the basis of colour or race. Humiliation results when, under the “separate but equal” doctrine, an individual is treated as a “means” (i.e., as a function of skin colour) rather than as an “end” (i.e., as a function of his or her qualifications).

Revisiting Plessy and Brown: Why “Separate but Equal” Cannot Be Equal