A significant issue during President Richard Nixon's Presidency was the use of public school busing to achieve racial integration. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in Brown vs. the Board of Education that the policy of "separate but equal" was unconstitutional. In parts of the United States, particularly the South, white kids and African-American kids went to separate schools, and there were arguments that the African-American schools were inferior and that the system of segregated schools itself was perpetuating low self-esteem among African-American children.
Years after Brown vs. the Board of
Education, however, there were still a number of places where white kids
and African-American kids went to separate schools. Brown vs. the
Board of Education, if my understanding is correct, was addressing
examples of legal segregation, in which there was a law placing white
children and African-American children in separate schools. (Perhaps
the Brown ruling was not just about legal segregation, but my
understanding is that legal segregation was what the plaintiffs were
challenging.) But racial segregation was not always something that
existed because it was mandated by law. It was often due to where
people lived. African-American children would go to an African-American
school because they lived in an area that was predominantly
African-American. And whites would go to a white school because their
place of residence was in a predominantly white area. School busing was
proposed as a solution to this kind of segregation. Essentially,
children would be bussed to public schools in other areas, and the
anticipated result would be that public schools would become more
President Nixon was critical of busing, but
he said that he would enforce the court orders mandating it. This drew
criticism from George Wallace, the Southern segregationist politician
from Alabama, who ran against Nixon as an independent in the 1968
Presidential election, and whom Nixon feared would run again as an
independent in 1972. Wallace accused Nixon of speaking against busing,
while taking actions in favor of it. After Wallace won or did well in a
series of Democratic primaries in his 1972 race for the Presidency,
Nixon called on the Congress to prevent the courts from ordering new
busing, as well as proposed $2.5 billion in federal aid to improve
education for minorities in the central cities.
(UPDATE: On page 623, Ambrose says something that puzzles me. He says
that Congress did not pass the moratorium on new busing that Nixon
called for because "on his instruction the bill had been held up in
committee". Why would Nixon seek to obstruct a moratorium that he
himself supported? Did he want the moratorium to fail so he could
continue to exploit the busing issue? The thing is, Ambrose in the rest
of the book seems to assume that Nixon sincerely opposed busing.)
Here are some posts that I wrote about busing: here and here.
I liked something that Stephen Ambrose said on page 520 of Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician:
"It is one of the innumerable ironies of American history that the original desegregation case, Brown v. Topeka
(1954), was a decision against forced busing. The plaintiff, Brown,
lived across the street from an all-white school in Topeka, but was
forced to ride a bus halfway across town to attend an all-black school.
The point of her suit was to allow her to attend her neighborhood
school; the Warren Court used the case to rule that she had the right to
do so, not because busing was wrong, but because segregation by race
was a denial of the equal protection of the laws."
Believe truth! Shun error!
2 hours ago