While waiting in line at the bakery to pick up a chocolate bobka for a dinner party, Jerry pontificates about how “if people would only look to the cookie all our [race] problems would be solved.” Is he correct though? Is the black and white cookie truly a representation of how Constitutional law should treat racial divides in America? Should we look to it as a model for Civil Rights legislation?
The 14th amendment, passed following the Civil War, provides all persons with equal protection under the law. But Southern states, sought to continue to separate Black and White Americans by arguing that this could be achieved if they were “to provide equal, but separate” funding or facilities for different races. For example, these types of laws were specifically upheld by the Supreme Court in 1896 in the infamous case of Plessy v. Ferguson. In the case, the Court found a law that required White and Black Americans to sit in different railway cars to be Constitutionally permissible. In essence, segregation was legal so long as neither race was discriminated against through inadequate funding or access to services.
This birthed nearly 70 years of “Jim Crow” laws which were, at the time, Constitutionally permissible ways to enforce segregation. In practice, though, the separate but equal doctrine was used to provide inadequate funding for services, facilities, and educational opportunities for Black Americans.
In the 1954 decision of Brown v the Board of Ed., the Supreme Court held that not only were “separate but equal” treatment of public schooling unequal due to funding differences, but that the very concept itself violated the 14th amendment as being unequal. The Court found that separation of populations by race was “inherently unequal” as it “deprives children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities.”
The Federal Government also passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prevented private businesses from discriminating against individuls based upon race. And, over time, laws that specifically permitted (or enforced) racial segregation were found to be either unconstitutional or were repealed by state governments.
So this brings us back to our original question: what pastry is the best model of Civil Rights legislation in the United States?
Jerry points to the cookie. But the black and white cookies seems to be more consistent with the principles found in Plessy v Ferguson, or other “Jim Crow” type laws. Sure, the black and white cookie has “two races of flavor living side by side.” But that is exactly what presents the problem, they are living side-by-side. Or, in the words of the Court: they are separate, but equal. Is that really, as Jerry claims about the black and white cookie, such a “wonderful thing?”
Jerry offers an additional thought to his cookie conundrum: “The thing about eating the Black and White cookie, Elaine, is you want to get some black and some white in each bite. Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate.” This is where Jerry starts to get on the right track. He advocates for a little of both in each bite, thus demonstrating that it is important for the two flavors to mix with one another. Only then, will “racial harmony” no longer “elude” us. Still though, the black and white cookie may not be the best example.
So what other options are available? The bakery first suggests that Jerry and Elaine purchase a carrot cake. But with its vanilla frosting, the carrot cake puts a white gloss over whatever lies underneath it. The next suggestion is to purchase a black forest cake. Similar to the black and white cookie, the black forest cake has levels of flavor that show clear separation between the two. The last suggestion is the napoleon which, well, just take one look at and you’ll know that there is not much racial harmonization going on with that pastry.
So what is the ideal better bakery treat that represents the proper legal approach to racial harmony and desegregation laws?
Yes, that’s correct. The bobka, the delicious chocolate bobka. With its swirling bits of chocolate intermixed among vanilla cake, the chocolate bobka is the perfect representation of the standards for racial integration that are put forward by Brown v. The Board of Ed and subsequent court cases and laws. It represents two equal groups of flavor, living interspersed among one another all combining to create a flavor that “you can’t beat.”
When eaten correctly, the black and white cookie can be illustrative of the model for Civil Rights legislation. But, by itself, the black and white cookie can easily be mistaken as a representation of segregation. But the chocolate bobka is the perfect example of the principles from Brown v. The Board of Ed. And, with any luck, the chocolate bobka may one day help to bring about…