Unintended Consequences?

The Daily Oklahoman prophetically editorialized the implications of this momentous decision on the community’s educational strategy and indeed, the city’s future itself. It conveyed a sharp foreboding, based on the experiences of other large cities. The publication questioned not the racial mixing of children in public schools, but the results of federal officials disrupting all manner of community life in order to artificially engineer such mixing. Specifically, forcing children, black or white, to be taken away from their family neighborhoods on city buses to crosstown schools filled with strangers of other races and cultures:


“A remaining towering question concerns the exact extent of racial mixing that will have to occur in order for the schools to become sufficiently homogenized in the court’s view. A similar unanswered question occurs in nearly every other city where the authorities have tried to grasp this nettle. This is being done in some cities including New York. Some such artificial co-mingling of the races apparently would have to be undertaken also in Oklahoma City if integration on anything more than a token basis were accomplished.


“But the net effect of such drastic practices elsewhere often has been to worsen segregation rather than to remedy it. White families are leaving New York City to enroll their children in predominantly white suburban schools. As Negro enrollment goes up in the city’s boroughs white enrollment goes down. In this manner “desegregated” public schools are tending to become “resegregated” in many instances.


“In Washington, D.C., a white exodus to the suburbs is leaving the central city’s schools increasingly to the Negroes….There isn’t any apparent remedy at law for such expressions of individual preference.


“Of course the present ruling affecting the Oklahoma City schools will have a marginal bearing where pupils are being transferred for manifest racial reasons. But in view of the city’s established housing patterns it isn’t apparent that anything other than token integration is going to occur here in the visible future.”


The Oklahoman editorial rued the unintended consequences of forced school integration in other cities. But its cautionary thrust was moderated by two existing factors in OKC. The paper apparently did not anticipate either of those changing.


First was the absence of large scale residential integration, in particular African Americans moving into white neighborhoods. One reason for this was the typically unwritten practices of whites not selling homes to blacks in white neighborhoods. As historian Bruce Fisher recalled, “even after the Brown (vs. Board of Education) decision, you couldn’t attend any school but the one in your neighborhood if you weren’t allowed to move anywhere else in the city.” Another, contrasting, cause was the lack of desire of many blacks to leave their existing communities.


The other factor particular to OKC was the absence of any forced busing—or even contemplation of it—of children to schools remote from their own homes and neighborhoods.


Many in the African American community, though not all, reckoned court-ordered busing as the best remedy for what they considered inadequate funding of black schools in the district, as well as the inability of black students to attend majority-white schools if they wished.

 

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Oklahomans Vol 2 :

Statehood - 2020s

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