7 April, 19:07

Waring Statue Unveiled in South Carolina 60 Years Later

Water cooler in streetcar terminal, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma"

Water cooler in streetcar terminal, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma"

Water cooler in streetcar terminal, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma"

By Andrew Hiller

Washington (VR) – Waites Waring was the son of a confederate soldier who lived in the deepest part of the south and grew up to be a judge. His 1951 dissent in Briggs v. Elliott is often cited as the opinion that began to undermine the idea of Separate and equal when it came to education and paved the way for desegregation.

More than sixty years after his opinion and forty-five years after his death, a statue is being erected in his native South Carolina to honor the man and the legacy his words inspired.

"It didn't happen overnight," USC Professor of Law Jody Armour reminds, "or on the road to Damascus, but it happened nontheless and he was able to see an evil in Jim Crow segregation that a lot of those around him couldn't appreciate."

"You have this Apartheid," Armour said, "This American form of Apartheid, which is Jim Crow, a kind of "white pride" movement backed by the law."

"If you get in a pool, if Sammy Davis [Jr.] touched his toe in a pool they had to drain the pool and re-fill the pool because a black person put his foot in a pool that white people were getting ready to swim in."

It was in this setting, growing up in this atmosphere that Waring made his statement saying that "segregation in education can never produce equality" and calling it "an evil that must be eradicated." And perhaps because he made his declaration from the heart of Dixie his words carried extra resonance. They were certainly used to advance the decision of Brown v. Board which ultimately ended educational segregation in America.

"He needed the moral courage to say this is the right thing to do and I'm going to do it,” Armour said. “I may not get promoted. I may get opportunities cut off..." and in fact, Waring found himself so isolated, a cross was burned in his yard, he received death threats, and ultimately, he left his home state a pariah.”

In the end, the unveiling of this statue is an important moment for Waring, but Armour believes that symbolically, it could even be a more profound moment for the state itself.

"South Carolina seems to be reconciling more with its racial history because it has been a stronghold of virulent anti-black racism for a long time and I'm not stretching to say that." Armour said."And it may be saying a lot about the state's new way of viewing itself... no longer perhaps as one of the last strongholds of the Old South and Confederacy way of thinking, but a way of recognizing there was a sea change morally and they were at the heart of it. They weren't just fighting change. They were spearheading change."

That's not to say the job is done. Sometimes, the state of segregation in American schools in the 21st Century leads Armour down the road of despair.

"It's sobering, too," Armour confesses, "to recognize that all these years later, after these pioneering efforts, and after all these courageous risks that were taken we have many schools that are as segregated as ever. I can take you around the corner here in LA and Crenshaw High, Segrated as ever, Inglewood High, segregated as ever, right, and so how far have we really come in all these years. We said at one time that segregation was a wicked kind of social evil and yet we tolerate in our metropolitan areas every day, all day.”

Download audio file

Andrew Hiller, Jody Armour, Waites Waring , Briggs v. Elliott , Politics
  •  
    and share via