Out of America: Blacks give low marks to busing

ST LOUIS - To the visitor, it sounds akin to heresy, the betrayal of all that was fought for. The first-ever black mayor of one of America's most racially divided cities is sitting in his vast, softly lit office, half a mile or so from the Mississippi waterfront. Calmly he explains why he wants to scrap a legendary achievement of America's epic struggle for civil rights: the busing of black students to white schools to implement the Supreme Court ruling of almost 40 years ago aimed at desegregating the US school system.

But Freeman Bosley Jr is unrepentant. At 39, he belongs to a new generation of black politicians, not even alive on that May day in 1954 when, in its historic Brown v Board of Education decision, the nine Court justices unanimously concluded that the doctrine of 'separate but equal' schooling for the two races was a hollow sham.

It took nearly three decades for a federal court to force compliance here. But since 1982, the state of Missouri has spent dollars 1bn (pounds 670m) on the city, including the daily transfer of 14,000 black pupils to white schools in suburban St Louis County. Statistically it adds up to the largest, most expensive desegregation programme in the country. But what gains, Mayor Bosley asks, has busing really brought? And at what price?

Out of 50 public schools in the city, 47 are still all-black, starved of resources now spent on officially desegregated schools. Tests, he claims, show no measurable scholastic improvement for children who are bused.

'We're losing some of our best young minds to the suburbs; we're never going to trust our own schools and our own neighbourhoods as long as we keep sending our kids off to the suburbs every morning.' Far better, he says, to spend the money on providing good schools where people actually live, to help restore a sense of community and identity to the battered inner cities.

But for all his self-assurance and political acumen, Mr Bosley is treading on perilous ground. In its late 19th-century heyday this old river metropolis was the gateway to the American West, the geographic hub of a continent. But a tidy Germanic facade always masked one of the most segregated cities in the country. Although nearly half its population is black, until Mr Bosley was elected early this year St Louis had never had a black mayor.

The achievement of the past 11 years has been colossal. A dollars 355m school improvement project is three-quarters complete; the number of black children who travel each day to schools outside the city limits is not far short of the stipulated target of 16,000. New 'magnet schools' designed to attract blacks and whites alike are thriving; their pupil-teacher ratio is close to the required 20 to 1, their teaching staffs are more or less fully integrated. And all this is, technically, on a 'voluntary' basis, whereby the white schools have co-operated without a court order forcing them to do so. 'We're really satisfied with what's been done,' said Eddie Davis, president of the St Louis Board of Education.

So why not proclaim victory, declare that St Louis has attained the 'unitary' education system demanded by the courts and end the formal desegregation programme? For one thing, says Mr Davis, the conditions imposed in 1982 will not be fully met until 1995 at the earliest.

But an older generation of blacks has a deeper fear: that to end mandatory desegregation would merely play into the hands of a white-dominated state government, at heart still racist. Missouri's attorney-general has already applied for the court order to be lifted, saying it has done more than enough. De facto if not de jure, 'separate but equal' would again become education's guiding principle. By suggesting that blacks, too, are fed up with desegregation, Mr Bosley risks giving aid and comfort to the very enemies of civil rights.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Life and Style
life
News
‘The Graduate’, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, was directed by Nichols in his purple period
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager