Busing: Was it a mistake?
Joe Biden “has gotten many things wrong over the years, but busing wasn’t one of them,” said Jeff Jacoby in The Boston Globe. During the 1970s, Biden was a Democratic senator who took a strong stand against the federal government forcing children to take buses to schools outside their neighborhoods in order to achieve racial integration. To woke progressives, Biden was on “the wrong side of history,” with rival Kamala Harris lighting into him during the first round of debates. “Perhaps some history is in order.” Instead of encouraging integration, court-ordered busing sparked an ugly racial backlash, with whites fleeing public schools altogether. In Boston, for example, the average black child attended a school that was 24 percent white before busing began. By the mid-1990s, it was 17 percent. But parents of both races resented their lack of say in their child’s education, with the vast majority of African-Americans also opposing the policy. “Busing made everything worse.”
“Busing did not fail,” said Nikole Hannah-Jones in The New York Times. Desegregation was a boon for black students, with studies showing it dramatically improved their test scores without harming white children. “We cannot be naïve” about why people opposed it. Black people still tell stories about the day workers arrived to fix up their dilapidated schools to prepare for white students. Today, Southern schools remain some of the most integrated in the country, thanks to court-ordered desegregation. Ironically, it was Northerners in all-white neighborhoods who derailed desegregation once they learned Brown v. Board applied to them as well. In some of the places where opposition to busing was fiercest, white students were attending their neighborhood schools; it was black students being bused in that parents opposed. Opposition to busing was never about buses.
As a white kid who was bused to school in Mobile, Ala., said Nancy Kaffer in the Detroit Free Press, I can tell you that enforced integration is of limited effectiveness. In my school, white and black students rarely mingled and sometimes fought. Inequality also prevailed within school walls. The honors classes I took, for example, were mostly white. In Detroit, I’ve seen how white parents pull up stakes when large numbers of black students start to enroll in lily-white schools, whether or not they are bused in. “Where do we go from here?” ■