CBS Equates Illegal Immigration With Historic Civil Rights Struggle

CBS Evening News commemorated the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the historic Supreme Court opinion that reversed Plessy v. Ferguson and ended official segregation, by equating the historic struggles of black Americans to illegal immigration.

I couldn’t believe it myself either the first time I watched, but see for yourselves:

JANET SHAMLIAN: The historic district is transforming once again. This time opening its doors to refugees and migrants.

PILAR MEJIA: Just because somebody doesn’t speak English doesn’t mean they are less valuable to a community.

SHAMLIAN: Students from more than 40 countries have enrolled.

MEJIA: We have clothing, we have…

SHAMLIAN: Director of Cultural Innovation Pilar Mejia welcomes each one. 

Without this program, where do you think some of these families would be right now?

MEJIA: It would be tragic. They might end up in either not being able to come, um- stay in situations in their countries that are dire.

SHAMLIAN: Is there any connection you can draw there between what’s happening now with these kids and the situation at the time?

ANDERSON: The connection is they are all looking for a better and brighter future. They’re all hoping for something better for their lives. We’re dealing with families who want more for their children.

SHAMLIAN: It’s that better, brighter future that was fought over 70 years ago in the schools of Topeka. Janet Shamlian, CBS News, Topeka, Kansas.

The report began innocuously enough, and initially appeared to have been a straight commemoration of Brown v. Board. There was the profile of the district’s first-ever black school superintendent, and a spotlight on some of the reforms she’s instituted in service of the community. 

But it is at that point that the report goes off the rails:

The hardships resulting from the choice to come into this country outside our lawful immigration system is not even within the same galaxy of comparability as enduring the horrors of slavery and/or the post-Reconstruction regimes endured by descendants of the formerly enslaved. The old Jim Crow regime is, in fact, nothing at all like illegal immigration, no matter how much the left or CBS correspondent Janet Shamlian would like to make it so. 

To suggest as much in a news report is a grievous insult, both to history and to human decency.

Click “expand” to view the full transcript of the aforementioned report as aired on the CBS Evening News on Thursday, May 17th, 2024:

MAURICE DUBOIS: President Biden met today with two of the original plaintiffs in the Brown v. Board of Education case, decided 70 years ago tomorrow. It outlawed segregation in schools, an important step in the fight for racial equality. Tonight, Janet Shamlian introduces us to the woman now running the Topeka schools, guided by the legacy of that Supreme Court decision.

TIFFANY ANDERSON: I heard you had a birthday.

JANET SHAMLIAN: Home delivered birthday gifts and cake aren’t generally part of a school curriculum.

ANDERSON: Good morning!

SHAMLIAN: But Topeka schools superintendent Tiffany Anderson rarely sticks to a lesson plan when there is a child in need.

ANDERSON: If we don’t do it, who will?

SHAMLIAN: The district at the center of the 1954 Brown v Board of Education ruling outlawing racial segregation in schools…

STUDENT: In the past, they had turned to “Separate but equal”…

SHAMLIAN: …is now helmed by its first black female superintendent. 

70 years later, do you live with the burden of their hope and dreams?

ANDERSON: I think 70 years later, I live with the privilege to help their hopes and dreams come to life. I’m standing on their shoulders.

SHAMLIAN: High school graduation rates have skyrocketed from near 70% to 91% during her eight year tenure. She’s established morale-boosting programs, like graduation ceremonies for students in the nearby state correctional facility.

ANDERSON: So have faith that you will make it through and be out of this space.

SHAMLIAN: In a district where almost half of students qualify for subsidized lunch, she put washers and dryers in schools, as well as food and clothing pantries.

ANDERSON: It’s not really hard to get people on board when they know that you care and they know they can be part of something pretty incredible and transformational.

SHAMLIAN: Why isn’t it happening somewhere else?

ANDERSON: Sometimes fear. Fear can make you choose not to accept other people. Fear can shut down systems in a way like nothing else can.

SHAMLIAN: The historic district is transforming once again. This time opening its doors to refugees and migrants.

PILAR MEJIA: Just because somebody doesn’t speak English doesn’t mean they are less valuable to a community.

SHAMLIAN: Students from more than 40 countries have enrolled.

MEJIA: We have clothing, we have…

SHAMLIAN: Director of Cultural Innovation Pilar Mejia welcomes each one. 

Without this program, where do you think some of these families would be right now?

MEJIA: It would be tragic. They might end up in either not being able to come, um- stay in situations in their countries that are dire.

SHAMLIAN: Is there any connection you can draw there between what’s happening now with these kids and the situation at the time?

ANDERSON: The connection is they are all looking for a better and brighter future. They’re all hoping for something better for their lives. We’re dealing with families who want more for their children.

SHAMLIAN: It’s that better, brighter future that was fought over 70 years ago in the schools of Topeka. Janet Shamlian, CBS News, Topeka, Kansas.

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