A case for bussing By Chandler Davidson Houston Our era thrives on paradox. A few weeks ago at a Washington hearing on school desegregation, Sam Ervin of North Carolina, one of the Senate’s perennial racists, found to his delight that he was on the same side of the fence as Professor Charles V. Hamilton, a black political scientist who with Stokely Carmichael once wrote a treatise on black power and is now a separatist. And who were they lined up against? Julius Chambers, no less, the black civil rights lawyer from Charlotte, who won the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school busing case before the Supreme Court this spring. Both Ervin and Hamilton were arguing for “separate but equal” schools, although with different constructions of equality in mind. Chambers took issue. “I don’t think those in power will provide the equal opportunities necessary,” he said. “The only way I see to accomplish it is to mix black and white students in schools, and Dr. Davidson is an assistant professor of sociology at Rice University. He is this summer completing a book on black politics in Houston and the chances for a “progressive, biracial, class-based coalition” in Texas and the nation. 12 The Texas Observer CLASSIFIED BOOKPLATES. Free catalog. Many beautiful designs. Special designing too. Address: BOOKPLATES, P.O. Box 28-I, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387. MARJORIE ANNE DELAFIELD TYPING’ SERVICE: Complete Typing Service and Editing Binding, Mailing, Public Notary. Twenty years experience. Call 442-7008 or 442-0170, Austin. WE SELL THE BEST SOUND. Yamaha pianos, guitars; Moeck-Kung-Aulus recorders; harmonicas, kalimbas and other exotic instruments. Amster Music, 1624 Lavaca, Austin. 478-7331. BUMPER STICKERS: Bread Tax Barnes/Ralph Wasn’t Bought. Both 350. One 200. 613-A West 31st, Austin. . McGOVERN FOR PRESIDENT button \(large or Hand-made paper mobile: $2 each, 3 for $5. Proceeds to campaign McGovern Committee, P. 0. Box 472, Vermillion, S.D., 57069. Contributions welcome. CENTRAL TEXAS ACLU luncheon meeting. Spanish Village. 2nd Friday every month. From noon. All welcome. the only way to do that in many cases is through bussing.” Like other integrationists, black and white, throughout the South, Chambers is under pressure from two sources, both of which were represented at the hearing. The black separatists believe that integration is a chimera. The white racists believe that if they are recalcitrant enough, the federal government will give up and allow the reinstatement of Jim Crow in all its glory. It is disconcerting, therefore, to read in the Observer black legislator well known in Texas politics, has come down on the side of racial separatism in the schools. Essentially, his argument goes as follows: There has been “nothing substantive .. . done to integrate the schools” in the South. What little integration that has come about is between poor whites \(or The education of blacks is getting worse, primarily because of the disruption accompanying attempts to force blacks and whites to go to school together. Graves, therefore, proposes neighborhood schools, a school administration and corps of senior teachers reflecting the neighborhood racial composition and a steady three-year rotation of rank-and-file teachers from predominantly white schools to black and vice versa, thus equalizing the chances of all students in a district for the same quality of instruction. THE ARGUMENT sounds plausible. Is it, however, valid? Consider the first premise that nothing substantial has been done to integrate the schools in the South. This is simply untrue, if by integration is meant blacks and whites attending the same schools together. It is occurring today for the first time on a large scale throughout the Old Confederacy. Between the fall of 1968 and 1970 the percentage of blacks in schools with a white majority increased in the South from 18 to 39. In the Deep South state of Mississippi, it went from 7% to 26%. In an Outer South state such as Texas, it went from 25 to 35. A decade ago, far less than 10% of the South’s black school children were integrated. But what about the integration which is now, perhaps temporarily, a reality? Does it involve blacks and poor whites only? I do not know of any study which analyzes the social class composition of whites attending schools with blacks. Poor whites are probably overrepresented. But it is easy to exaggerate, especially if one uses 3raves’s home city of Houston as the model of what is happening throughout the South. In cities, blacks tend to live nearer low-income whites, and the latter are used by school boards as “integration fodder” when limited zoning or pairing is required. Whether all or even the majority of integrated whites are poor is another matter. A sizable proportion of the stable working class and the salaried middle class is surely involved as well. If bussing for racial balance becomes more widespread, of course, this proportion should increase. But what about the smaller cities, towns and the rural areas, where about half of the South’s black school children live? In the Deep South especially, some parents who can afford it are setting up segregation academies. But to date, probably less than 6% of white students in the 11 southern states attend them. After all, not many families can afford the burden of paying public school taxes and funds for private schools as well. Indeed, a New York Times report from Jackson, i ,. Miss., recently indicated that officials there expect some white students to return to the public schools this fall. So, in the smaller towns and cities, as there are no suburbs to flee to, whites of every social class are sending their kids to integrated schools. This is occurring in East Texas today, as it is throughout the South. The sharp difference between the metropolitan situation and that in the less populous areas can be seen from recently released HEW figures. In Houston, at the beginning of the past school year, only 8.4% of the black school children were attending predominantly white schools. But in the state as a whole, the figure was 34.9%. Outside Houston, therefore, the percentage is even higher. Ironically, the situation may turn out to be more progressive in these areas the last refuge of unremitting racism than in the big cities. Willie Morris’ observations on integration in Yazoo, Miss., are suggestive. HAS THE educational system, as a result of integration, “gotten even worse for the less affluent and the minority,” as Graves claims? It is difficult to say. Our entire educational system is haywire, and in some respects as bad for the advantaged as the disadvantaged, as writers as different in their approach as Charles Silberman and Edgar Friedenberg have shown. So far as minority kids and poor ones are concerned, there is some fragmentary evidence that they are not worse off now than earlier. One thinks of August Hollingshead’s description of the education of poor whites in the Midwest in the
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