Although mandated school busing here in Boston was implemented for a reason, I firmly believe that, for a number of reasons, it did noit work out the way it was intended.
It's a known fact that, for many years prior to mandated school busing, the all-white Boston School Committee had violated the Racial Imbalance Law in the most mean-spirited, egregious fashion, deliberately keeping de facto segregation of the Boston Public Schools intact.
As a result of many years of deliberate intransigence on the part of the Boston School Committee, the Federal Courts were compelled to intervene, taking much tougher measures than would've otherwise been taken, which, in turn led to increased racial/ethnic polarization, an increase in the already-high student school drop-out rate, and increased flight from the city and/or its public schools
Initially, the NAACP in Boston had not wanted a Federal Court Lawsuit, due to costs and expenses. However, because of the Boston School Committee's deliberate, flagrant violation of the Racial Imbalance Law, and because of the constant intransigence of the Boston School Committee, the NAACP felt that there was no other recourse to be taken.
Although there was always much racism in Boston, age-old, pre-existing racial tensions and hostilities in Boston went soaring way, way up over the top at the start of busing. There was much rock-and-bottle throwing, beatings, assaults and even stabbings and shootings, especially directed against black students being bused into Boston's white workingclass ethnic neighborhoods, particularly Southie, Charlestown and East Boston.
Although much of the white workingclass opposition to and active resistance to mandated school busing was defintely motivated by racism, the issues were also socioeconomic in origin. Many of Boston's whites, particularly in Southie, Charlestown and East Boston, were as poor as the blacks in Roxbury, Mattapan and North Dorchester. They, too had been hurt by airport and highway expansion, which encroached on and sliced through those neighborhoods, as well as urban renewal polilcies gone awry. Many of the workingclass whites had also witnessed the complete and total destruction of Boston's old West End neighborhood, which was replaced by large, not-so-attractive highrises, as well as the ghettoization of the Jewish neighborhoods of Mattapan, Roxbury and North Dorchester by unscrupulous blockbusting tactics and were concerned about preserving what they had left, fearing that they "might be next".
Black students being bused into Boston's white ethnic enclaves, especially Southie, Charlestown and East Boston were regularly subjected to verbal and physical abuse, as were the mostly white and Irish-Catholic Tactical Patrol Police Firce, who had been assigned to maintain order in the affected areas of Boston when busing came in, and, so were ordinary people residing in the above-mentioned white neighborhoods who attempted to comply with the court order in some way or other.
Boston's white neighborhoods, and later, the black neighborhoods in retaliation (though to lesser extents than in the white areas of the city), erupted with a fury that rivaled that of many of the Southern areas (i. e. Alabama, Mississip, etc)in the wake of mandantory school busing.
Although the black community had opted to have their children bused into Boston's white ethnic neighborhoods, including Southie, Charlestown and East Boston, many blacks were afraid to enter the high schools in the areas to which they'd been assigned, doing so with much trepidation, and, in some cases, refusing to, precisely because of the verbal and physical abuse that they were routinely subjected to.
Having said all of the above, I firmly believe, that with a different kind of leadership, and with more foresight on the part of people who were involved with urban planning, things would've been very, very different.
As guilty as the all-white Boston School Committee back then was of many years of malfeasance, they were by no means alone in perpetuating de facto segregation in Boston. Roughly a month after MLK's assassination, in May 1968, the B-BURG (Boston Banks Urban Renewal Group) Program, which was ostensibly for the purpose of helping low-income first-time black homebuyers to break out of the ghetto and achieve the responsibility of home ownership for the first time, came in and was announced. B-BURG was a consortium of some 20 Boston-area banks that operated in partnership with the real estate agents. What happened, however, was nothing less than a disaster.
The Jewish neighborhoos of Boston were chosen for the B-BURG program, citing resistance from the other white ethnic neighborhoods nearby. The Jewish neighborhoods were "redlined", hence restricting
black homebuyers to those particular neighborhoods. In a number of instances, FHA (Federal Housing Admn)-insured loans were denied to black homebuyers who'd found decent housing just afew blocks outside the B-BURG lines. Far from helping people to break out of the ghetto, B-BURG had merely enlarged, expanded and reinforced it.
As the "redlined" neighborhoods tipped, most of the Jewish population fled, their flight fueled, at least in part, by irresponsible and racist campaigning: unscrupulous real estate agents frequently warned Jewish families to "sell and get out now, before property values declined", and many other threats. With the advent of threats, arsons, break-ins and firebombings, pre-existing white flight from the "red-lined" neighborhoods, now increased in earnest, creating an overcrowded, crime-ridden ghetto that still exists today.
I firmly believe that had the B-BURG program been administered differently, hence allowing black homebuyers access to housing throughout the city of Boston, Boston's neighborhoods and public schools alike would've been much more integrated, and the Boston school system in much better shape today, with better schools for both non-white and white Boston school students alike.
There would've been a much beter chance of neutralizing the all-white Boston School Committee's stance, hence derailing LDH's crusade, and appealing to the better instincts of Boston's white workingclass and elilminating the need for a far-reaching mandated schoiol busing program that clearly created furthur polarization in Boston along the lines of race and class and made many people still more angry and fearful of each other.
Instead, the all-white Boston School Committee lost no time in riding on the coattails of white workingclass frustrations and resentments along the lines of race, class, etc, and played to their worst fears. All of the above having been said, however, even though there's always been much bigotry in Boston's white workingclass ethnic neighborhoods, I question whether or not the bigots were necessarily in the majority. Perhaps not.
However, assaulting, namecalling and throwing rocks, etc. at busloads of schoolchildren certainly didn't help, and were certainly not conducive to people working together to solve the problems.
I believe that, with a different kind of leadership, Boston's white workingclass neighborhoods would've been amenable to integrated neighborhoods and schools alike, and much of what took place back then could've been minimized, if not prevented.
I firmly believe that the intransigence of the all-white Boston School Committee back then, coupled with the condemnation of the people residing in Boston's white workingclass enclaves as racists per se by many people in the all-white suburbs, as well as badly thought -out
urban renewal plans and a poorly-designed and poorly-executed busing plan that had come about as a result of many years of malfeasance and recalcitrance on the part of the Boston School Committee, all set the stage for much of the conflict and racial/ethnic strife that went on in the city of Boston back then.