There was a LA law that stated that all railway companies carrying passengers in their coaches shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races.
P was 7/8 white and 1/8 black; the black part was not discernable in him.
P took possession of a vacant seat in the white passenger car and was asked to move to the colored passenger car by the conductor.
After he refused, P was arrested.
P brought suit claiming that the separate but equal violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
SCOTUS held LA law constitutional, separate but equal valid.
What types of inequalities may the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause abolish?
The Equal Protection Clause may only invalidate legal and political inequality, not social inequality.
The object of the 14th Amendment was to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color or to enforce social, as distinguished from political, equality.
Law requiring separation do not necessarily imply the inferiority of either race to the other.
Laws like this have been found to fall under the police power of the state.
The underlying fallacy of the P's argument is that he considers the separation of the two races as a stamp of inferiority. This is not true.
If the two races are to meet upon terms of social equality, it must be the result of natural affinities and voluntary assent of individuals.
Legislation is powerless to eradicate racial instincts or to abolish distinctions based upon physical differences. Trying to do so would only make things worse.
If one race is inferior to the other socially, the Constitution cannot put them upon the same plane.
In view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here.
Our Constitution is colorblind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.
This judgment will in time prove to be as pernicious as the Dred Scott decision.
We boast of the freedom enjoyed by our people above all other peoples. But it is difficult to reconcile that boast with a state of the law which puts the brand of servitude and degradation upon a large class of our fellow citizens.