Sunday, June 30, 2019

I Too Feel Kamala's Hurt on Bussing


I'm trying to avoid boring you with personal history, but from an Anglo's perspective who supported bussing,  Like Kamala Harris,  I have scar tissue and feelings of both pain and empowerment in my work on that issue in Houston in the 70's. when we were Houston newcomers. We chose a diverse school district because we wanted our kids to have a multicultural experience and viewpoint and because we understood the coded language of real estate agents extolling the virtues of "quality education" in all white school districts.

I relate to Kamala's pain because my first wife (long since widowed) and I were activists in pro-school integration and bussing movements. I was a leader in an amazing diverse group that took over a racist, segregationist school board with a diverse slate of candidates. We instituted programs such as magnet schools, gifted and talented programs, specialty high schools for the arts, healthcare, engineering, law enforcement and many others.  Our boards created robust volunteer programs and "robin hood" funding to shift funds from rich industry located schools to neighborhood schools with low industry tax revenues.  

Additionally, during this period, I led a suburban movement to successfully stop a breakaway movement in my area led by racists. My spouse ran a campaign for State Board of Education in our area espousing bussing and got 44 % of the vote. She was brilliant and articulate on the issue and inspired non-racists to turn out in a largely white area of Houston. Our efforts were successful, but I can tell you that I still bear the scars.......we had hate and threatening phone calls and letters, garbage dumped in our front yard, we and our kids were called "N... lovers" (which we proudly loved, though the hate was painful); right wingers went to my employer twice demanding I be fired twice (as an executive at Uncle Ben's Rice). I kept my job but you can only imagine the insecurity I felt thereafter). 
Our volunteer, pro-bono liberal attorney went bankrupt from racist clients that abandoned him; I always have felt guilty about that. The breakaway school opposition lasted for 7 years and finally won in the U.S. Supreme Court. All of this affected us emotionally and financially but even with the pain and yes, fear for our safety, I'd do it all over again. Our kids grew up to be fine multiculturalists. They were bussed and had a fantastic public school education. 

But for me, though I'll vote for Joe Biden if he's the last standing, his anti-bussing work and failure to do what was right with Anita Hill and his Iraq committee work and vote, that vote will cause me pain and anguish, because in spite of what he might have learned from his great work with Obama, I'll never feel certain he'll do the right thing on the tragic race and other justice issues with his core values displayed through the pre-Obama years. His logic and legalistic crap supporting his extensive anti-bussing work is tortured and he knows it.