Bussing, desegregation…that was a nightmare for so many kids. I too was bussed, a good hour away from home, to attend a school on the West side of the city, that had been all white, but quickly became about 75% black.

There, I met kids like you. It bothered me that they weren’t treated fairly because they were in the minority. (But too be fair, nobody bothered those white kids all that much. However, no one really wanted to hang out with them either. They largely hung out with each other.)

In Cleveland, Ohio (where I am from) the bussing was supposed to make everything fair, because prior to that all the good schools were where the white people lived and all the bad schools were where the black people lived.

Bussing didn’t change a thing, and all of those Cleveland public schools are basically prison pipelines at this point.

Bussing failed miserably.

Hindsight 20/20, it’s clear that it would fail in the goals it was designed to achieve, but your take on it is quite interesting. You believe the experience made you more empathetic toward black people; and that makes sense. I too had a similar experience.

My experience made me more empathetic toward poor white people, because at my school, they were bullied the worse, usually by other white people.

I hate bullying. One day, this white special ed kid, was being bullied on the playground by two older white kids. I walked right up to them, chastised them for being bullies, and dragged the special ed kid away from them. I was emboldened by the fact that I was surrounded by so many black people, the white bullies wouldn’t bother me. (They didn’t. They were shocked it seemed, but they let me go on my way.)

I took the kid to our principal (a white man) and explained what had happened. The principal told me, because he was in special education, this was something that happened all the time, and was always going to happen. I was beyond appalled.

I say all of that too say this, the people who were in charge of these integration efforts were often clueless as to the appropriate ways to handle it. The special ed kids who were mainstreamed, shouldn’t have had principals that simply allowed them to be bullied. And all the parents, teachers and administrators involved in integration should have been exposed to effective diversity training, which considered once we throw white and black kids together, what is the impact going to be? How is this going to work? And what should we do to prevent whoever is in the majority from bullying whoever is in the minority? (Because yes, white people can be discriminated against based on race, and it typically happens whenever they are in the racial minority. That used to be a rare thing in America, but now it’s becoming less rare.)

But us kids who were bussed? No one really told us anything- and the entire effort ended up being a waste of time, effort and money. Except, maybe empathy is a take away. I think it’s difficult to look someone in the face everyday, and not recognize that though they might be “other” they are still human. That’s what you seemed to take away from the experience so good for you!

But bussing is one of those failed legal and social policies that has caused most people in our country to take such an entrenched position on race relations. Obviously, you didn’t come from an extremely racist family, because even though they had concerns about it, they allowed you to attend a predominantly black school. Most whites in America absolutely refused to allow this to happen. Even under court order, most white communities found ways to nullify school integration attempts.

I think that, whites who insist upon being separate always, are getting frustrated with America’s demographics, because the all white demographics are getting harder and harder to maintain. This is another one of those dialogues that is really complex and ties back into class. But what most whites seem to be afraid of, when being forced to interact with people of color, in schools and in neighborhoods, is losing a certain class status, which is a valid concern, due to institutionalized racism. White people intuitively know, black people do not have access to the same resources; and so they don’t want to share their community resources with those who have less. It’s not a good deal for them. From a totally economic perspective, this is true.

However, all of this is changing. For one, America’s demographics are no longer just black and white. America has become so multicultural. My current neighborhood, which was in the 90s about 90% white, is now probably 60% to 70% various shades of brown. But most of these people aren’t black Americans. They are from all over the world, and are from a variety of economic backgrounds. A middle eastern neighbor is quite wealthy. There are fears that he might be a terrorist. Is this racism or common sense to voice these concerns? I honestly do not know.

The one take away, that I have from desegregation and multiculturalism is just throwing different people together and hoping for the best doesn’t work. There have to be some systems in place to manage the diversity, because if not, fear, paranoia and hostilities will breed and explode. That has happened on more than one occasion in my county. Some of our leaders take a very Trump approach to diversity, like Corey Stewart, who now wants to be governor of Virginia. He brags about being Trump, before Trump. It’s true. About 12 years ago he instituted brutal policies to drive Hispanic immigrants out of the County. It worked.

However, we have other leaders who advocate for managing diversity, empathy and tolerance. Either way, it’s not easy, but the latter approach seems more humane to me.

That’s the approach you seem more comfortable with, and I actually do run into quite a few white people like you in my community. So I am well aware, that there are a fair number of white people who don’t think making demands for racial separation and/or people of color elimination, is a viable solution to the current challenges facing America.

But, honestly, I think a lot of whites do find that solution viable. It’s definitely a concern for people of color in America.

Thanks for your honesty about your experiences with race relations in America, though. I think yours is a very interesting and unique perspective.

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