“48 percent of blacks don’t believe they’ll achieve racial equality in their lifetime, or ever. That’s incredible, given how hard blacks have fought for it and how much progress has been made. Meanwhile, half of all whites believe equality has already been won” (Stockman).
This statistic is staggering, and speaks to the truth of how the racism prevalent in the busing era continues into today’s society. I believe integrated schools were 100% necessary in Boston, and it it absolutely disgusting and disheartening watching the footage from South Boston High School: grown adults screaming racial slurs at innocent children, bricks being thrown at not only the buses but also people and police officers, boycotts, and so forth. It was eye-opening to juxtapose the treatment of blacks entering Southie, to the whites entering Roxbury. In Southie, “only 124 of the 1,300 enrolled students showed up for school” (Irons, Murphy, Russell). On the contrary, in Roxbury, “there were no protesters, no bitter confrontations, and no heavy police presence,” (Irons, Murphy, Russell) against the white kids. These recounts also corroborate the heart-wrenching footage of the little girl, Joanne, who just kept repeating “it isn’t fair, it isn’t fair.” Busing and violence erupted to such an extreme that in 1974, Roxbury and South Boston were declared “death zones.”
These horrific incidents make me wonder if busing was the best option. Obviously, the schools needed to be integrated in some way, but I can understand why parents may be upset sending their children across the city when there is a school down the street. Curious about what would happen if I were in this situation, I asked my dad what he would’ve done if my siblings and I were bussed across the city. He first said that my parents found it important that we attend a Catholic school, basically telling me that regardless of the racial tension of public schools, I would have been enrolled in a Catholic school. Nevertheless, I asked him if we were to attend public schools, what his standpoint would be. He told me that he would be hesitant to send me across the city to a place that I’ve never really been to, but that this integration was necessary, so he would be torn. He also mentioned that it would be tough if some family members remained in our original neighborhood and the others were sent across the city. We then got into the conversation of how important exposure to people of different races and culture is. My elementary school was predominantly white, and I severely lacked exposure to anything outside a tiny, catholic elementary school. BLS opened my eyes to the wider world, and even talking to friends from private, predominantly white high schools, their lack of exposure is very clear. After all, the real world includes people of all colors, cultures, and backgrounds. And so, if Boston Latin School specifically is supposed to prepare us for a “rewarding life,” it is imperative that diversity is incorporated into our classrooms.
The results of other solutions are difficult to predict. Would they have ended in more harm than busing? A solution that someone mentioned in class today suggested diversifying neighborhoods, so that kids grow up surrounded by different cultures. Looking around Boston today, even 40 years after busing, not all neighborhoods are diverse. Look at West Roxbury, for example, barely any black families live there. Even looking at diverse neighborhoods like Dorchester, whites and blacks still often live on different sides of the neighborhood. Nevertheless, I believe this solution (despite the economic zoning in the map from class), would have aided the transition into integrated schools. I think that a lot of the problem comes from the way people were raised. People were raised to fear the other race, which led to an odd superiority/inferiority complex, and an misconstrued idea of the individual person. Mark Jaworski (white) wrote in his sixth grade paper that “some blacks were mean and I didn’t want to get hit or anything like that,” while Cynthia Martin (black) wrote that integrating schools was good because “blacks and whites can get to know each other and their ways.”
I cannot imagine going to school in the climate of racism in the 1970s. The stonings, beatings, and boycotts would be overwhelming. I commend the black children who were bussed into South Boston, that were ridiculed, but persisted in order to better Boston for future generations. That is not to say, however, that busing does not have lasting effects in Boston today. Not only are racial tensions between neighborhoods still present, but busing is still present. My mom is a BPS teacher, and her students are bussed from all over the city, and it’s really difficult for the younger children because they are required to wake up so much earlier to get to school on time, that they are often drowsy during the school day. In the 70s, because of busing, South Boston’s attendance was “worst in the city, averaging a daily rate of 55.6 percent, more than fourteen percentage points lower than any other Boston public school” (MacDonald). And so, a whole generation lost their education. At a time when crime rates were so high, as MacDonald tells the story of his neighbors, friends, and family members’ deaths with the lack of education. Therefore, it may be harder to get jobs which could support a family in today’s society, posing economical challenges. Outside of these few examples, Boston will be forever changed because of the busing of the 70s, and Garrity’s order to desegregate schools.