"You know what? I'm against forced busing, too!" That remark was made by a young intellectual black principal while I was addressing a meeting (in Raleigh, N.C.) of the local Fellows of the George Washington University Institute for Educational Leadership.
The principal's pronouncement was based on the fact that the burden of busing has fallen predominantly on blacks. In a school system where the black-white ration is 30 to 70, for example, 70 percent of the black students must be bused to achieve racial balance, but only 30 percent of the white students must be bused. And if the purpose of forced busing is to achieve societal integregation, increasing numbers of blacks are beginning to wonder if the required movement of their children to integrated schools during the day, and back to segregated neighborhoods at night, isn't becoming a permanent "solution" to the problem of racial discrimination rather than the temporary solution forced busing was originally designed to be.
Decades ago, "freedom of choice" was a slogan used by many whites largely for the purpose of maintaining segregated schools, with black schools usually of inferior quality. To correct this situation, the federal government logically was asked to assist blacks in receiving guaranteed equal education opportunities. From that request, however, the federal government embarked on a policy that at least tacitly supports the racist view that black students cannot learn unless they are seated next to whites.
As one who attended a racially integrated school in the South in 1952 (two years prior to the Supreme Court's Brown decision), and who taught in both predominantly black as well as predominantly white neighborhoods, I can say two things regarding black-white educational relationships. First, in schools where educational excellence rather than social promotion is emphasized, there appears to be less racial discrimination. Second, during my public school teaching career, I had more disciplinary difficulty with spoiled students from affluent neighborhoods than I did with economically deprived, yet educationally motivated, black students in the same school.
While the Scholastic Aptitude Test scores for white students have been declining for approximately the past 17 years and many white youths have seemed determined to ruin their lives with drugs, black students whose parents have emphasized educational achievement have had a golden opportunity to excel. From time to time, I meet several of my black former students and now find that one works at the local state university, one at a television station, one is working toward her college degree in psychology, and I believe one is now an officer in the Air Force.
The point here is, that with government protection guaranteeing equal educational opportunities, blacks can perform as well as whites; but neither blacks nor whites want the government to adopt the principle that it can force people to do that which they do not want to do (e.g., forced sterilization, euthanasia). While blacks desire federal protection against descrimiantion so that they may attend whatever school they wish, go to any public establishment they choose, and live wherever they please, blacks do not want government implementing a policy that, for example, would require the break-up of black neighborhoods forcing the residents against their will to disperse throughout the white community. Blacks as well as white have pride in their neighborhoods and realize the importance of neighborhood schools.
What of the contention, though, that we live in a world where blacks and whites must live together, and abandonment of forced busing might lead to a return to a segregated, albeit voluntary, society? It should be emphasized here that the problem is not busing, but rather "forced" busing. There is nothing wrong with students voluntarily requesting to be bused to schools outside their neighborhoods. There is nothing wrong with school systems developing districts within which black neighborhoods already exist so that an integrated school system may occur naturally. And although "magnet" schools are undesirable for many because they tend to develop elitist attitudes among students, a majority of the American people might favor instead of forced busing an approach where students of all races voluntarily would choose to attend secondary schools offering programs fitting students' special interests.
Concerning the government's role, it is entirely proper for the government to guarantee that each school receive proportional financial support, and that teachers include all races and be of equivalent ability in each school. There is also nothing wrong with government offering developers incentives to construct housing projects on the outlying growth areas of urban communities that would allow racial representation.
As indicated earlier, the problem is "forced" busing. And blacks increasingly seem to be voicing their opposition to this apparently permanent federal policy, the burden of which falls predominantly on their children and their race.