The idea, on its face, seemed reasonable: Brown dealt only with legalized segregation, but in dozens of northeastern, Midwestern, and Border State cities, de facto racial segregation existed. Policies such as “red-lining” (as well as uglier, more overt instances of hostility in cities like Detroit) had prevented black families from obtaining mortgages in selected neighborhoods, creating overwhelmingly-white or overwhelmingly-black neighborhoods. So assigning students to public schools on the basis of their residences resulted in de facto segregated schools.
Beginning in the 1960s, civil rights groups obtained from sympathetic federal judges rulings that mandated public school busing to achieve racially balanced public schools. The most notorious of these cases occurred in Boston, where federal judge J. Arthur Garrity took control of the city’s public school system, and racist mobs in South Boston greeted the arrival of black children at South Boston High School.
However well-intention in theory, mandatory busing almost always fell short in practice. In policy terms, they precipitated “white flight,” in which most white families either moved from center cities to suburbs (Detroit is a good example of this pattern) or sent their children to private schools rather than busing them out of their neighborhoods. In political terms, these white families—disproportionately middle-class or lower-middle class Catholic ethnics—became ground zero in the backlash against the Democratic Party, opening up the way for their emergence as “Reagan Democrats.”
Busing, then, mostly left behind smaller, though not much more integrated, public school systems; and harmed the political allies of busing advocates. It’s no surprise that most cities (and courts) have abandoned mandatory “diversity” busing in favor of voluntary programs like magnet schools.
In this respect, the decision of North Carolina’s Wake County to move away from mandatory busing is a bit behind the times. But the school board meeting to implement the policy change met with a protest from four “civil rights” activists—led by none other than the Rev. William Barber. Barber and his cohort used a break in the school board’s session to place themselves in board members’ seats before being arrested. The state NAACP head claimed that Wake County’s actions would wipe away “what it took more than a century ‘of tears, sweat and blood to accomplish.’”
That’s the same Rev. Barber whose conception of “justice” in the lacrosse case consisted of abandoning decades’ worth of his organization’s principles on criminal justice matters and posting on his organization’s website a “memorandum of law” riddled with errors that made the defendants appear to be guilty.
That, after such behavior, any politician would consider Rev. Barber credible is beyond belief.