As a student of American history, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the subject of race and it's complexities, has always fascinated me. You cannot understand American history while at the same time ignoring the subject of race. Alexis Toqueville, the young Frenchman who observed American society in 1831 said that the legacy of slavery in America would be that we would always have a race problem. The following is from his book Democracy in America. "If we reason from what passes in the world, we should almost say that the European is to the other races of mankind what man himself is to the lower animals: he makes them subservient to his use, and when he cannot subdue he destroys them. Oppression has, at one stroke, deprived the descendants of the Africans of almost all the privileges of humanity. The Negro of the United States has lost even the remembrance of his country; the language which his forefathers spoke is never heard around him; he abjured their religion and forgot their customs when he ceased to belong to Africa, without acquiring any claim to European privileges. But he remains half-way between the two communities, isolated between two races; sold by the one, repulsed by the other; finding not a spot in the universe to call by the name of country, except the faint image of a home which the shelter of his master's roof affords". I am not a Southern apologist or denier when it comes to slavery. There was no worse place to be, if you were Black, than in the South. Both before and after the Civil War. However the North was no picnic for them. The following is what Toqueville said about the free Black in the North. Which could have also been written in the early twentieth century. “In almost all the states where slavery has been abolished, voting rights have been granted to the Negro, but, if he comes forward to vote, he risks his life. He is able to complain of oppression but he will find only whites among the judges. Although the law makes him eligible for jury service, prejudice wards him off from applying. His son is excluded from the school where the sons of Europeans come to be educated. At the theatre, any amount of gold could not buy him the right to take his seat beside his former master; in hospitals, he lies apart. The black is allowed to pray to the same God as the whites but not at the same altars. He has his own priests and churches. Heaven’s gates are not blocked against him. However, inequality hardly stops at the threshold of the next world. When the Negro passes on, his bones are cast aside and the differences in social conditions are found even in the leveling of death. Thus, the Negro is free but is able to share neither the rights, pleasures, work, pains, nor even the grave with the man to whom he has been declared equal…”
The thing that seems to evoke the most visceral reaction from many white people is the subject of interracial dating and marriage. People will claim to be open minded on race until that subject comes up. That is where the line is drawn. I can honestly say that I have always been in favor of people being able to date and marry whoever they want to, as long as it is of the opposite sex. If Christians are going to be part of the family of God when they get to heaven then what difference does it make if we mix here on earth? People have even tried to use the Bible to condemn interracial marriage. I have never seen anything in the Bible that condemns it. If anything the Bible appears to support it. In the book of Numbers God was angry with Miriam and Aaron because they criticized Moses for marrying an Ethiopian woman. Miriam was cursed with leprosy. I think that the biggest reason many whites were opposed to integration and bussing was the fear that their children would become romantically and sexually involved with other black children. Being in such close proximity with them in school rooms and busses. Many people had legitimate reasons for being against busing and I was one of them. Many whites removed their kids and their money from public schools to avoid having their kids bussed to an inner city school. This destroyed the neighborhood schools leaving behind poor black and white children who did not have the option to leave. Desegregation rather than integration was the way to go. I use my high school as a perfect example. East Nashville high school had a black neighborhood west of the school and white neighborhoods to the south, east and north. You could draw a 360 degree circle around it and everyone regardless of race would be eligible to attend school there. It would not be the end of the world if a school was mostly white, mostly black, or all white or black for that matter. Upon graduation most people will interact with blacks if you are white. Or whites if you are black. This interaction will happen in the military, higher education, and the business world. The whole problem with separate but equal as defined in the Supreme Court case, Plessy vs. Ferguson was that black and white schools were separate but definitely not equal. Whites got the best facilities, the best books, and the most money. White schools were more likely to have parent participation and parent money flowing into those schools. After integration and bussing, and because of white fears, they began moving to mostly or all white suburbs and placing their kids in all white private schools. Even prosperous black families left the inner cities to move away from failing inner city schools. The unintended consequence of integration and the way government handled it was the deterioration of public education.
When I moved to Rutherford County in 1979 my son Rob was being bussed to an inner city elementary school when he could just have easily gone to Cole elementary which was in our neighborhood. He had gone to that school until the fifth grade. There were blacks at Cole and one of his closest friends was black. He had slept over at his house on occasion. Rob was going to be bussed for miles to an inner city Middle school named Cameron instead of being allowed to go to Apollo, which was the closest school in Antioch. Cameron was in a crime ridden area of Nashville. Because of bussing kids were having to get up a lot earlier than was normal and not getting home until very late. Bussing was expensive, causing wear and tear on the vehicles and then there was the cost of extra fuel. Bussing was not new. When schools were segregated blacks were routinely bussed past the nearest school which was white, to a black school that was farther away. It was a bad idea then and it was a bad idea during the time that schools were being integrated. Many whites were like me in that my objections to bussing were not based on a fear of racial mixing or race at all. My objection was the impracticability of it and the destruction of quality education education in this country. There is no doubt however that many whites had the age old racist fear of miscegenation. These whites have made it clear to me on occasion how adamantly they are opposed to whites and blacks dating and marrying. Harry Byrd, the famous segregationist senator from Virginia, who died in 1966, was very much opposed to the 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education decision and the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This was because of the possibility of miscegenation or race mixing. He said "Six year old children of both races were going to be assembled in little huts before the bus comes, and the bus will then be packed like sardines, and everyone knew what would come of that. What our people most fear is that by this close intimate contact future generations will intermarry. Intermarriage! Miscegenation!-- the mongrel race." Byrd was right. Intermarriage has been the result of integration. However, he is wrong that we are a mongrel race. God doesn't make junk. He creates people with souls and free moral agents with the ability to choose right from wrong. I have always told my children that they were free to choose a mate of any race. I would much rather see them pick a person of good character than to be burdened with a white person who is no good. There are good people that I know will disagree with my views. Unfortunately, I believe that far too many white people would still agree with Harry Byrd.