Has Maryland reneged on its promise to desegregate the state's public institutions of higher learning? Has the state, in defiance of the law, continued to operate a dual system of separate and unequal schools based on race?
The answer to such questions will decide the outcome of a potentially historic case that opened last week pitting the state's four historically black colleges and universities against the Maryland Higher Education Commission. At issue is whether the state has truly succeeded in overcoming the shameful legacy of its segregated past, or whether it has simply extended the policies and practices of that era into the present under a different guise.
It may seem strange that such a question is being asked at all in the second decade of the 21st century. After all, some 60 percent of the state's approximately 50,000 African-American college students now attend state public colleges and universities from which they once would have been barred because of their color.