Constitutional Law – Equal Protection – Racial Discrimination and the Role of the State

Constitutional history from the 1857 Dred Scott decision to the 1954 Brown decision records “a movement from status to contract” for the American Negro. Although uncertainty clouds the definition of “state action,” the civil rights of the Negro under the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment have been clearly established. The Negro citizen has arrived; the Negro minority group remains one of the gravest social problems of twentieth century America. De facto school segregation, limited economic opportunity, and inadequate housing are problems not solved by invocation of the fourteenth amendment or incantation of the Declaration of Independence. Solution, if any there is to be, must come either through the activity of private interests in society or through the exercise of the police power of the state. In either event the fourteenth amendment, while remaining important as a conserver of values already established, will decline in importance as a creative force. Through an analysis of a limited but important social problem – the lack of adequate interracial housing for middle-class Negroes-this comment will attempt to develop a rationale to justify the use of the state’s police power generally in solving social problems resulting from private race discrimination and to suggest a viable form in which that power may be exercised.