separate but equal


Also found in: Legal, Wikipedia.

separate but equal

Referring to a doctrine or policy holding that two or more groups may be segregated so long as they have the same kinds of resources, facilities, and opportunities. This was once a prevalent and legally protected policy regarding the status of African-American citizens in the United States following the abolition of slavery until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the case of African Americans, as in most other instances of such a policy, such facilities and opportunities were separate but rarely truly equal. Sometimes hyphenated if used before a noun. Separate but equal is a contradiction in terms—if people are forced to be separate, they can never truly be equal.
See also: but, equal, separate

separate but equal

segregated but of equal value or quality. (A doctrine once sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding racial segregation.) The separate but equal doctrine was abandoned years ago. They were provided with facilities that were said to be separate but equalbut were really of a lower standard.
See also: but, equal, separate

separate but equal

Relating to or affected by a policy whereby two groups may be segregated if they are given equal facilities and opportunities. For example, They've divided up the physical education budget so that the girls' teams are separate but equal to the boys . This idiom comes from a Louisiana law of 1890, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson, "requiring all railway companies carrying passengers on their trains in this state, to provide equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races." Subsequently it was widely used to separate African-Americans from the white population through a general policy of racial segregation. In 1954, in a unanimous ruling to end school segregation, the Supreme Court finally overturned the law (in Brown v. Board of Education).
See also: but, equal, separate

separate but equal

The doctrine that similar facilities for different groups justifies separating them from one another. This phrase became widely known through a Supreme Court decision of 1896 in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson. Justice Henry B. Brown, speaking for the majority of the court, found that “separate but equal accommodations” for African Americans and whites satisfied the Fourteenth Amendment, which had been invoked by the plaintiff. The doctrine, which marked the low point of American race relations following the Civil War, was reversed in 1954 in several decisions by the Supreme Court, at that time led by Chief Justice Earl Warren. The most important of these decisions held that “separate but equal” has no place in public education, and that so-called separate but equal facilities are inherently unequal. Despite its close associations with the civil rights movement, the phrase was invoked in other contexts as well, such as gender discrimination (“Girls can’t play on the baseball team but they have their own softball team—separate but equal”).
See also: but, equal, separate