California Busing by Ron K. Unz
The Economist (Letters), August 22, 1981
Your otherwise fine article on the condition of blacks in California (August 1st) errs in pointing to racism as the root cause of opposition to forced busing in Los Angeles.
The white parents who opposed having their children bused to black inner city schools (which were distant and high in violence and drug abuse) were perfectly willing to have black kids bused into white schools. A system of voluntary busing (the PWT program) has been successfully integrating white schools in Los Angeles for many years now, with no fuss. It is proper to criticize white parents for forcing black children to bear the burden of integration, but not to imply that they are trying to maintain segregation.
The anti-busing position was based on geography and common sense. Los Angeles is a sprawling collection of suburbs, not a compact European city. The Los Angeles school district is as large as Luxembourg, while “Greater Los Angeles” is nearly the size of Corsica. One of the busing programs in Los Angeles (there have been several) forced many schoolchildren to travel 20 miles or more each way. This meant spending up to two or three hours every day on a bus.
As a white resident of Los Angeles who attended voluntarily integrated schools (and who hopes to help elect Tom Bradley America’s first black governor), I feel that mandatory school integration simply does not fit the characteristics of Los Angeles.
North Hollywood, California