At this point we’re all pretty used to Utah State Sen. Chris Buttars’ putting his foot in his mouth, but when he stated during a recent radio interview with Logan radio station KVNU-AM that he thinks “Brown v. Board of Education is wrong to begin with,” few in the community have been willing to let it slide.
Buttars, (Republican,West Jordon) was discussing his plan to introduce a bill which would give the Senate the power to fire judges whose rulings they found unfavorable, (a fantastically flawed idea in its own right). Reporter Tom Grover, who conducted the interview, cited that “courts are the way for those in the minority…to ensure (their) rights are protected,” which provoked what can only be described as a willfully confused response from Buttars.
“I don’t understand that at all. You give me an example. I don’t know of any example where the minority is being jeopardized by legislative action.”
When Grover responded with the 1955 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Buttars has this to say, “Well, I think the Brown v. Board of Education is wrong to begin with. That’s a whole other subject. Call me again and take a half-hour to talk about that.
Accusations of racism aside, Buttars comments also show a profound lack of understanding of the court system and the civil rights movement. This was perhaps best articulated by Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake branch of the NAACP, in the Salt Lake Tribune “We’ve always had to fight and win our battles in the courts. For him or anyone else to say the court system isn’t needed, they don’t know the court system and they don’t understand the history of civil rights.”
Amid the fray, Buttars emerged to clarify his remarks telling Deborah Bulkeley of the Deseret Morning News, “I think Brown v. Board of Education was a monumental step forward. It took that kind of bullet to break through that segregation wall.” Perhaps if Buttars should have stopped there before attempting to paraphrase Jay Greene’s book, “Education Myths,” saying, “He talks about how you had schools in the South that were really geared toward the special needs of minority kids, then all of the sudden you bused half those kids to a different school that maybe got more money, but they weren’t geared to the needs of those kids” and telling radio station KCPW, “I don’t think there’s a racial bone in my body.”
Update: In fairness to Mr. Greene, the author of “Education Myths,” it seems that the Senator is either confused about which book he read or is mischaracterizing Greene’s book entirely. Greene contacted New West shortly after the posting of this original article with the following statement, “Nothing in my book could be interpreted as opposing the Brown decision or desegregation. In fact, the Brown decision only appears once in the book (on p. 204) in a chapter about how school choice contributes to the desirable policy goal of improved school integration. That is, my book clearly embraces the desegregation goals of the Brown decision. I’m afraid that the senator must have my book confused with a different one.”
While it’s safe to say that Chris Buttars could win a Coot-off, I don’t think he’ll be doing any dadgum ol’ judge firing anytime soon.