Today the Roberts Court struck down the ability of school districts to use voluntary race-based busing policies to try to create greater diversity in their school (story here, opinion here [PDF]). That news reminded me of this encounter:
It was Martin Luther King Day. I was in downtown Denver that morning. Riding the shuttle to work.
A somewhat disheveled 20-something stood there with a sign. “End transportation discrimination.”
Seeing me looking at the sign, he proudly announced he was going to meet a civil-rights leader. That he wanted to make them aware of the fact that there were black children being bussed half-an-hour a get to school, even though they lived within 200 yards of a school that they could attend. He seemed genuinely concerned that this was an issue of fairness. That the black students were being mistreated.
There were a number of African Americans on the bus. A 55 year old grandmother, riding with her grandkids, didn’t take a stance when he told her. She said that it was interesting, but not much else.
A black man in a suit got on. He read the sign. He said that it was done so the district could create a diverse school environment, and to assure that all school were of similar quality.
The young man seemed only a little interested. He’d already made his sign and was one his way. He simply repeated his story to the man, who said little else.
A block later, the sign-carrier got off the bus. I was left wondering. I hadn’t realized that busing still occurred, and even where it wasn’t mandated. I didn’t know what its real effect was. I didn’t know if the kids he knew had been forced to go to a different school of if they’d volunteered.
And because I didn’t ask, I’ll never know.
Whether it was good or bad, they probably won’t be doing it anymore.
Maybe the sign-carrier did win.