At two law school graduation ceremonies yesterday, guest speakers remembered the U.S. Supreme Court's historic Brown decision of 1954 as a milestone toward a goal of equal opportunity in this country, but both said that to reach the goal, the country must make difficult sacrifices.
At Antioch University's school of law, Eleanor Holmes Norton, chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, told 132 law school graduates, "We can achieve equality in our time.
"But race and sex equality will not be free, as nothing worth having ever is in America." Norton said. Yet the cost will in no way match what America has already paid over the tragic years or can expect to pay if it shrinks from the remaining task or approaches it too timidly.
"Strong remedies . . will bring minimal dislocation now." Norton said. "Weak remedies promise turmoil up ahead and utimately the need for even stronger remedies later."
At George Washington University's National Law Center, where 412 receivd graduate law degrees, Wade Hampton McCree Jr., Solicitor General of the United States, said, "Sadder but wiser black Americans have realized just how deep-rooted racism was.
"Its elimination could not be accomplished without white Americans," McCree said.
"I do not shut my eyes to the improvements that have taken place for blacks in American life. But the irony is that, in the field of public education, there has been the least change. The principal beneficiaries have been middle-class blacks.
"Today, the great mass of blacks who had little before Brown versus the Board of Education still have very little," he said. "We must overcome the crisis in confidence that besets black people."
"Twenty-five years ago this year, in Brown versus the Board of Education, the (Supreme) court held that racially separate public schools are inherently unequal." said McCree, speaking of the decision that outlawed segregation in all the nation's public schools.
"The South [has become] more like the North because apparently things have improved very little," he said.
Norton told Antioch graduateds that the nation came out of the sit-ins, the demonstrations and marches ill prepared for the next step toward full equality - "the necessity to make good on the new words of equality."
"The major challenge for Americans today is to understand the effect of patterns and practices of discrimination that do not depend upon an individual wrongdoer with evil intent." Norton said. "As government enforcement pushes ahead, we are in for some trying days without rapidly increased public understanding of the special institutional quality of racism and sexism and the obligation of the law to dislodge them in their institutional form.
"The fact is that the tenacity of race as a problem has not been all a matter of the severity of a lingering history," Norton said. "It has flowed in part from a constant national miscalculation of what it would take to cause race to recede and let us be."