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The Boy On The Bus

[My story in the Outlook section.]

Every morning when I was in fifth grade, I walked a mile down the road to Stephen Foster Elementary, my neighborhood school. Then I got on a yellow school bus and rode across town. The Supreme Court had issued a desegregation order. It was 1970. Men had landed on the moon twice. Now white kids and black kids would go to the same schools.

The court order roiled Gainesville, Fla., and the rest of Alachua County. Private academies sprouted overnight to accommodate white families that bailed on the public schools. But most white folks hoped for the best, and their kids headed to what many of them had always considered the wrong side of the tracks.

The Supreme Court has recently revisited school integration, declaring, to gasps from many liberals and academics, that the government can't use race as a criterion for assigning students to schools. But 37 years ago, the government not only took race into account, it also assembled a fleet of buses and began hauling white kids and black kids back and forth across town like so much cargo.

It was, in retrospect, an ambitious social experiment. It was also clumsy, and at some level outrageous, reducing all of us to a single characteristic of white or black.

For me it was ultimately a good experience, a chance to

get outside the bubble of the white Southern Baptist neighborhood where my eccentric Unitarian, single-parent family had always lived. But I know that others experienced it differently. And I wonder to this day whether it was truly a major step toward a more egalitarian nation, or just a momentary spasm in a society that has remained essentially befuddled by race.

This much is certain: Those buses were slow, loud, crowded. You could feel every shift of gears. Railroad crossing: Gotta stop, yank open the bus door, make sure no train is coming. Day after day, we growled along 39th Avenue, due east, then turned south on Waldo Road, past a sun-blasted terrain of pine trees, gas stations, warehouses, radio towers, overgrown lots -- a chaotic jumble of stuff on the ragged boundary between the city and the scrub.

Eventually we reached our goal: Charles W. Duval Elementary School.

Here's something one 9-year-old couldn't have imagined in 1970: That four decades later, society would remain segregated in many respects, including public schools. That busing would be abandoned as a tool for achieving racial balance. That Duval would become nearly all-black again. That "integration" would become a dated word.

As the Rev. Thomas Wright, a pioneer in the struggle for school integration in Alachua County, told me last week,

"We wound up with a dual system all over again."


Hark back to 1970. The Vietnam War was dragging along, bleeding into Cambodia. Student protests shut down campuses. National Guardsmen gunned down four students at Kent State. Feminism found its voice. The environmental movement took off.

And the Jim Crow era was finally ending. Racism remained. It was like humidity -- always there, saturating the atmosphere. North Florida is part of the Deep South. Even a college town -- Gainesville is home to the University of Florida -- wasn't immune. Alachua County was among the last places in America to integrate.

All through the 1960s, the white public schools had just a token black student or two. For every KKK lunatic, there were countless good folks who were frightened by the idea of mixed-race schools. To put it in perspective: Even the Florida Gators, the university football team, didn't field a single black player until wide receiver Willie Jackson got his chance in the fall of 1970.

Desegregation came about only through much trauma and struggle by a few idealistic civil rights leaders -- among them the Rev. Wright, whose daughter, LaVon, was one of three black students to integrate Gainesville High School. The FBI told Wright that it wasn't safe to let LaVon take the bus to school. He had to drop her off and pick her up. White students called her every name in the book. She was beaten up.

"We had to know what integration was like," Wright said. "It was not exactly what we thought it would be."

Then came busing. Most whites lived on the west side of town, most blacks on the east. In a 1971 decision upholding forced busing, Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote: "The remedy for such segregation may be administratively awkward, inconvenient and even bizarre in some situations and may impose burdens on some; but all awkwardness and inconvenience cannot be avoided in the interim period when remedial adjustments are being made to eliminate the dual school systems."

Yes, I found it rather awkward going to Duval, but only because I found it rather awkward being alive, being 9 years old, being kind of brainy and very skinny and self-conscious about our family being poor (though probably not as poor as most of the kids who walked to Duval from the neighborhood). I was 57 pounds of insecurity.

And those girl creatures: transfixing, terrifying.

But racial tension? None. I'm not suggesting that we were ultra-enlightened, that we were little angels of egalitarianism. Just that race didn't matter as much as other things. My Mom's second marriage broke up: That mattered.

My older brother, Kevin, who was in sixth grade at Duval and aspired to rock stardom, remembers the biggest news that year: "Black Sabbath came out with their first album." Also, marbles were huge. The sixth-graders spent all of recess trying to win marbles, one precision thumb-flick at a time. Cat's eyes were big. Baby blues. Kids were judged not by the color of their skin, but by the contents of their marble pouches.

I had a great homeroom teacher, Mr. Terrell. He'd been in the Army and knew how to maintain discipline. He was also young, hip and fun. You didn't see a lot of male teachers in those days. That he was black didn't seem as important as the fact that he played touch football with us every day for a solid hour after lunch. He played quarterback on both sides of the ball. (Trust me when I report that Terrell-to-Achenbach was the Montana-to-Rice of Duval Elementary.) Mr. Terrell seemed to believe in me; he would tell me that I could do anything I set my mind to -- a potent spell from a teacher's magic wand.

Another blessing: Mr. Cliett, the vice principal, who had been the first white administrator to arrive at Duval, several months earlier. He was full of experiments, like a chess tournament in which the students dressed up as knights and bishops and rooks and whatnot and marched around on a giant chessboard on the softball diamond. He also taught a special "enrichment" class for a select group of us with good grades. We began with logic, straight from a college textbook.

Bill Cliett is now retired and -- he told me when I called -- working on a book about James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake." Which seems like exactly the kind of thing Mr. Cliett should be doing.
"Things went very smoothly with the kids," he recalled. The teachers had some difficult adjustments. Many were called on a Sunday night and informed that they'd be working at a new school across town the next morning. Some had to teach subjects outside their expertise. Discipline could be tricky; some teachers were reluctant to paddle students of a different race.

Mr. Cliett told me something I'd forgotten: Every bus that first year had an adult along for the ride. To keep an eye on things and to ease parental nerves.

And we did have one incident, it turns out: On the last day of the year, older black kids from a junior high school threw rocks at the cars of some white parents. The cops came. The students were held in the classrooms until we got a police escort to the buses.

But for all the hysteria among adults, and the fulminations by racists, desegregation at Duval didn't prove traumatic for the students. It was, frankly, anticlimactic. Perhaps this is because children at that age have so much in common that race recedes into irrelevance.

Kind of like what you'd want for society writ large.


There were many things I didn't know then, or couldn't appreciate. Like the fact that Duval had been, for decades, a central element of the African American community. The principal, Mr. Jackson, lived in the neighborhood. Then, overnight, a school that was nearly 100 percent black turned something like 65 percent white. Kids who walked to Duval became minorities in their neighborhood school.

Meanwhile the "black" high school, Lincoln, had been closed, amid much protest and rage. Black students were dispersed to white schools amid flaring violence. The smooth transition at Duval wasn't the norm. And the court plan played favorites with elementary school kids: Only the older white kids, in fifth and sixth grade, were bused, but younger black children, in first through fourth grades, had to make the trek across town.

African Americans turned against busing, according to the Rev. Wright. When the schools began to segregate again, he said, "there was no real fight from the African American community."

Nationally, according to stastistics cited by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in his dissent in the recent integration case, one in six black students go to schools that are 99 to 100 percent minority. Additionally, three in four black and Latino students go to schools where most students are minority. Whites go to schools that are, on average, 80 percent white.

It's easy to find fault with the ham-fisted ways that the government deals with race. Shaping social interactions by bureaucratic fiat rarely works. There's something absurd about labeling people "white/nonwhite" or "black/other," the binary choices employed by the school systems that recently ran afoul of the Supreme Court. But all the talk about creating a "race-blind" society seems naive, too. Race-blindness can be used as an excuse to ignore difficult racial issues. A way to turn away from troublesome things.

If my 46-year-old self had a frank discussion with my 9-year-old self, I'd probably have to apologize for all that we didn't get done in the past four decades. I'd tell him how we got a little lazy, selfish, cynical. How segregation is oddly persistent after all these years. How we remain, not only in America but around the world, a stubbornly tribal species.

And if the 9-year-old pressed me for a solution?

Um, let me get back to you on that, kid.


The era of forced busing now seems a period piece.

"It was a transition that had to be done, to get kids involved with each other, parents involved."

That's my old teacher Frank Terrell talking. I reached him on his cellphone in a pasture in Florida where he keeps a few cattle. I told him he'd made a big difference in my life. He said he remembered me and proved it with specific stories. He revealed a shocking fact: In 1970 he was only 23 years old.

When the schools were preparing to desegregate, he said, Mr. Jackson called him in to the principal's office.

"There will be no issues here at Duval," Mr. Jackson told Mr. Terrell.

And he got that right. Other schools had issues. We had touch football.

Mr. Terrell had a successful teaching career and wound up back at Duval before he retired, just in time to help the school go through a renaissance. Duval has a magnet program in the arts. Rated as a failing school in 2002, it has since been acclaimed for its turnaround.

"Black kids at Duval have some of the highest scores in the state of Florida," Mr. Terrell said. He said it had "nothing to do with black and white. If you've got committed parents, and you've got teachers who are on the ball -- that's how you do it."

Agreed. We need more good parents, more good teachers. More Mr. Clietts and Mr. Terrells.

By Joel Achenbach  |  July 8, 2007; 7:43 AM ET
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Next: The Boy On The Bus: Annotations


Being from a country where most people are kinda brown and still darker brown people are treated poorly, I missed the whole busing thing. However, as a teacher, I've seen segregation in action as of last month. And, sadly, as Joel points out, this is an adult issue.

When I told a fellow teacher I was applying for a job in a neighboring county, she warned me, not just informed me, that "there are lots of black kids there."

Posted by: a bea c | July 8, 2007 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Reposted from tail end of last kit.

Good morning everyone!

a bea c-I do remember you saying you had lost time to the game, and appreciate the attempt to warn off the weak willed. I was thinking more of an all caps warning at the top of the post to keep the weakest of the weak (me) from even reading a game linking comment until all our chores are done.

Re: Paddling. I received my first teaching certificate in Tennessee in 1993. A professor warned me that I might want to keep my opposition to paddling students to myself since it could keep me from getting hired in some school systems. IIRC in the '90s some states that had abandoned corporal punishment were debating reinstating it.

Posted by: frostbitten | July 8, 2007 8:04 AM | Report abuse

If we don't have an uplink problem, uplink maintenance, uplink something, I should be first.

Posted by: rain forest | July 8, 2007 8:04 AM | Report abuse

I do have an uplink something. Oh well, next time.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 8, 2007 8:06 AM | Report abuse

I do have an uplink something. Oh well, next time.

Posted by: rain forest | July 8, 2007 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, don't know how it happen.

Posted by: rain forest | July 8, 2007 8:08 AM | Report abuse

I was first?? Wow.

I also had an incident early in the spring that made me so angry I cried. I actually went in the faculty restroom and cried and had another teacher watch my students.
When I asked the lab attendant to keep an eye on them while I ran to the trailer to pick up something I'd left there, he rolled his eyes. I told him this was my best class and he'd have no issues. He rolled his eyes and said he'd have trouble with "that one" and pointed to the only black kid in the room.

The kid is a good kid, and extremely smart. He had problems early in the year because the family was homeless. I said this to the attendant, who replied, "All I have to do is look at him and I know he's trouble. All of "them" are trouble.

After I had my new job, I thought of telling this story to the HR person. I don't think it would have made any difference. This is the school district where a teacher said to me, "You are Jewish? But you act so normal!" And all the teachers in the room nodded their heads.

Posted by: a bea c | July 8, 2007 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Just finished reading your piece, in the Outlook section (the Sunday hardcopy hadn't arrived in time for my morning cereal and coffee, so I grabbed your column online).

Okay, so, your 46-year-old self didn't have any easy answers for the 9-year-old about how to deal with race and integration - or not. Maybe that would make a good follow-up piece? Either way, I liked your closing thoughts about the need for better teachers and more engaged parents.

But something else bothers me that, somehow, I think is related to the integration issue: political correctness. Sometimes I'm concerned that we've become so afraid as a society of offending others, that we pretend racial differences don't matter. In fact, they do matter - not in terms of the horrid, racist notion that one race is better than another - but because race may be a big part of who someone is culturally, historically, as well as personally.

This was driven home for me while watching cable news coverage at work of the New Orleans flooding in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

Watching the images beamed around the world by CNN, I was struck by the extent of the flood waters, the helpless and abandoned masses of people, as well as commonplace how-could-this-happen-in-America exasperation. But an African-American colleague of mine had one, devastatingly simple observation: It's really difficult to see so many back people hurting.

We were viewing the same footage, the same devastation, yet seeing two very different pictures.

How could I have been so insenstive to something that, in hindsight, seemed so obvious? I'll take my share of the blame. At the same time, it seems to me that we're taught first and foremost in our society not to offend, which often translates into fear of acknowledging, or expressing interest in, race and culture.

This, it seems to me, keeps us separate. How then can we truly be equal?

- Springfield, VA

Posted by: Dan | July 8, 2007 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Re-link from the last boodle:

If William Booth gets to cover the Roswell Festival, does that mean Joel gets to join Hank on the red carpet come Oscar time?

The problem with NewGuy's hints to pre-plug the Outlook pieces is that we boodlers use up all our A-material in the run-up and have nothing left for when the actual article gets posted.

I think the high school level is where the integration issue has always been the most difficult because of latent anti-miscegenation atttitudes.

Here in multi-culti Columbia where such things don't usually merit notice, I had a school custodial staff member shake his head and point out that a rather pretty blonde girl was dating the black quarterback. He asked why a smart girl like her would go and do that? I had no reasonable response. Love is colorblind.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 8, 2007 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Joel, that was really excellent. Growing up where I did, "busing" was just something I saw on the news. You really gave it a human face.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 8, 2007 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Joel's gonna be online tomorrow at 1 p.m. to chat about his article.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 8, 2007 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Reposted from previous Boodle:

"One other quick note on Joel's busing piece; anyone else see the fact that Joel's story takes place in and around Stephen Foster Elementary as thunderingly ironic?

I sure do."

I should have added: I also appreciate how Joel and his editors didn't throw Foster's contribitions to American music and culture (however Foster intended them, however they'd been interpreted or used by others, and whatever anyone may think of them) into our faces, it is left as an exercise for the readers to consider that aspect for themselves.

Well done, Joel.


Posted by: bc | July 8, 2007 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for noting Joel's chat, er, I mean online discussion, Mudge.


Posted by: bc | July 8, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Just getting caught up from yesterday, we were out all day at our friends house on the lake.

Manon welcome, this is indeed a very civil place.

Yoki, that is the best gift - give that man a hug from me, and I was excited about the garden design book I got for my birthday :-).

TBG - I knew you were a woman after my own heart, having to borrow an iron. We do own one as the husband is rather finicky about his clothes, I recently bought a top that has permanent wrinkles in it, my oldest said Mom don't let Dad see it he will iron it, he did it with my crinkle skirt!

Now to read Joels puece before company arrive and the heat really takes hold.

Posted by: dmd | July 8, 2007 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Went over and looked at the comments on Joel's Outlook piece.

It's gettin' ugly early.


Posted by: bc | July 8, 2007 9:16 AM | Report abuse

dmd, the worst thing is that we own an iron, I just don't know where the heck it is!

Posted by: TBG | July 8, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

TBG - well, that's just "iron"ic.


Gotta get me some better writers.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 8, 2007 9:34 AM | Report abuse

It took less than ten comments on the Outlook piece for someone to prove my point.

Controlbob said:
"School busing worked. How many more white girls are married to negroes today than back in 1970?"

Posted by: yellojkt | July 8, 2007 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Joel loved the article, to me busing was just something I saw in the news in a place I couldn't quite understand.

Posted by: dmd | July 8, 2007 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Is the title of this Outlook piece a riff on Tim Crouse's 1986 book, "Boys on the Bus"? The title hits gender pretty hard. It would be interesting to see Joel's article accompanied by a companion piece written by an African-American boy who rode a bus from his home school or district to a predominantly white school--at around the same period of time.

Would a young girl's observations be different, whatever her skin color? I too was bused for a short period of time, but for a reason that had nothing to do with integration.

I woke up in the dark this morning thinking about this article/Kit and the title, as well as the issues within my own high school and circle of high school friends--since my high school was former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren's high school.

Brown v. Board in '54, our class graduating in '69. Was there a big shift in Warren's hometown in education 15 years after the historic Supreme Court decision was handed down? I'm thinking of Boodling about this, but must fix breakfast. My pre-dawn wakefulness caused me to think much.

Posted by: Loomis | July 8, 2007 10:17 AM | Report abuse

In the US there are laws that protect the minorities. Where I'm from, the law protects the majority, the Malays. The government (the party of the majority race) pits one race against the other to score political points. So what we have is a country where people segregate themselves at every level in society.

In secondary schools and at universities, the different races don't mix. Neither do they mix at the work place. Muslims don't sit and lunch with non-muslims because they fear there might be pork in the non-muslims' food even though each have their own brown bag.

Posted by: rain forest | July 8, 2007 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Great article.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 8, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

The title "Boy on the Bus" I assume, was chosen because Joel is, in fact, a boy.

As a kid my reaction to busing was much like dmd's. Something difficult to understand that didn't touch my little world. As a grown-up I view it as a bad solution to an important problem Clearly, the reality of the world made a mockery of the notion of "separate but equal." As has been suggested, maybe busing was the kick-in-the-pants that the nation needed.

Joel's conclusion about the importance of good parents and teachers is, I think, crucial. Unfortunately, these are things you can't legislate.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 8, 2007 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Am I the only one who thinks today's "Opus" is kinda harsh and maybe slanderous? Or is it libelous?

Posted by: nellie | July 8, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I think it's useful to differentiate between racism, prejudice, and discrimination in discussions. Each means something different, yet they are often used interchangeably adding to poor communication. "Racism" is a SYSTEM to use skin color to perpetuate a caste system. Prejudice is "pre-judging" and if the pre-judgement is negative, is equal to the word "bigotry" in my mind. Discrimination means to see a difference.

I have a hypothesis that prejudice and discrimination are linked to anger. It may be a failing, but if we see anger as a human fault, they may be an inappropriate response to anger, either momentary or long-simmering. If we can deal with anger we may be on the road to dealing with bigotry. It is a long road.

I also have observed people who blame their problems on others. Sometimes they are correct, sometimes not. Many anglo-saxons blame their various problems on others when the problems are their own. Sometimes their problems ARE caused by others. Many different types of others, not just "racial" others. To get more judgmental about others-blamers in another race, than about others-blamers in ones own race, is bigotry.

All sides have plenty of people who cause their own problems. All sides have people who truly are caused problems by others.

Posted by: Jumper | July 8, 2007 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Stephen Foster never saw the Suwannee River, nor did he spell it correctly.

Posted by: Jumper | July 8, 2007 11:41 AM | Report abuse;entryid=x-0000007v;viewid=0000007V.TIF;cc=sketchbook;c=sketchbook;quality=1

Found the lyrics in Foster's handwriting. You be the judge.

Posted by: Jumper | July 8, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

nellie - I agree "Opus" was a bit hard on 'ol Fred. But what truly offends me is that Breathed chose to regurgitate, verbatim, a punchline from twenty years ago.

Didn't think we'd notice didja Berke?

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 8, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of anger, had quite a day yesterday. Illegal trash dumper tried to run me down and kill me when I told him I had called the police. The whole incident was recorded by my 911 call. Including me shouting "Help!" while running like crazy from the furious man whose trash I did not want on this property.

Posted by: Jumper | July 8, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Opus wasn't nearly as hard on ol' Fred and Nixon was, though...

"Nixon was disappointed with the selection of Thompson [as counsel to the Senate Watergate committee], whom he called "dumb as hell.""

Jumper - did the police get the guy?

Posted by: byoolin | July 8, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

i was born in 1970, so i was too young to remember the turbulence surrounding forced busing. suburban new jersey where i grew up is comprised of small towns and districts, so people were segregated by towns rather than parts of towns and for that reason busing couldn't really fix the problem.

my high school was integrated simply due to the demographics of the sending districts. most kids kept to their ethnic groups, and there weren't too many overt issues (for example, i don't remember hearing the n word used), although i'm sure there were more subtle ones.

i will now say something that may sound politically incorrect, but the down-side of this mostly peaceful coexistence was that many white kids thought that african-american kids were flakey because 1) many were involved in some spin off of the "five-percenters," which seemed to have by this time (1980s) no real philosophy other than trying to get as many african-american teenagers pregnant as possible and 2) they didn't try hard academically, and the few kids who did try were accused of acting white or being oreos.

of course, socio-economic factors greatly influence these things, but on the surface and for the not-so-reflective types, this led to "better-informed" negative perceptions, at least for people inclined to think certain ways.

sorry for the paddling question yesterday. didn't mean to detract from the main point of the article, but the issue of corporal punishment in public schools really intrigues me. still can't believe it happened in recent times.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | July 8, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

The title "Boy on the Bus" I assume, was chosen because Joel is, in fact, a boy.

Joel is a male--no longer a boy, but a man (I hope).

Posted by: Loomis | July 8, 2007 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Joel -- your article was very, very good. It reminded me of a lot of experiences I've had over the many years.

When I was in East Africa going on four years ago, one of the things that crept up on me (once I woke up from inexorable jet lag) in Kampala, Uganda, was that I started feeling immensely conspicuous -- a white woman in a predominantly black society. Now, I pride myself on blending in very quickly and very well. I'm multilingual (to various extents) and I learn languages within a very short period of time - even to the point of flexing the language to mine for puns. But how does one, then, "blend in" in regard to outward appearances? I'm not sure that it was complete discomfort that I felt -- it was more a bit of frustration. I mean, I'm not one ever to push the "invisibility" button in order to blend in -- I'm very independent, so I save enough of that to adorn my edges, so to speak. And I was treated exceptionally well -- all were very polite and intoxicatingly friendly. In fact, I was very moved when one of the waiters at a restaurant I frequented often during my week there (it was part of the apartment hotel where I stayed) came up to me one evening and asked me if I wanted to know his name. The request itself sort of startled me -- I mean it wasn't quite the same as over here when some young muffin of the male of female variety comes to your table and says robotically "Hi, I'm Jamie. Let me tell you what the specials are tonight." This was different. He was just a lovely man who saw me every day - we smiled when we saw each other and the daily recognition provided us with some cross-cultural comfort. When I said "yes" with one of my hugest smiles, he told me his name was David. I gave him mine in return. We proceeded to address each other by name whenever our paths crossed during my remaining time in Kampala.

Upon my reflections of these feelings of conspicuousness, I knew what I didn't want to feel. I didn't want to feel like an intruder. I didn't want to raise up institutional memories of white colonizers (to the stateside tune of plantation owners). I didn't want to feel or to be made to feel "special" at someone else's - anyone else's - expense. I wanted to blend in and not stick out. I could do the first -- the second would not be as easy, if ever accomplished.

I've shared this experience with a great many black friends, including some African friends. It's led to very deep (and sometimes very funny) discussions, which are ongoing.

Differences are to be embraced, as much as the commonalities which lie underneath. Our colors arise from our wanderings from the equator of man/womankind's first, original home -- East Africa. Skin color is mother nature's way of being adaptive. It protects from the harshness of the sun and when we don't need that anymore, it adapts. In fact, one of my Zambian friends told me recently that when he worked further south in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, his skin lightened up (and he's normally very dark skinned). Upon his return to Zambia, he became darker again. I find this to be absolutely fascinating and ultimately very cool.

Consider all of this in the context of advertisements for tanning lotion, and tanning salons, where white people can look, well, um, darker -- but never be abused for the color of their skin. Amazing.

I'm planning a trip to Zambia in a year. And, no, I'm not going to get all tanned up for it -- I'm prone to skin poisoning anyway. I can hardly wait. I left my heart in Africa, and it is waiting, somewhat impatiently, for my return. If feel its magnetic pulse and will be ready for the thrall of the most intense and gratifying emotions I've ever felt for that wonderful, sensuous continent.

Would that this country and all in it would open its eyes, open its hearts, open its arms and learn the warm, lifelong embrace which Africa has learned -- maybe was born with innately at the beginning of life -- and which has, at times, proved its downfall. That those who do not and cannot know the love of humanity would do their utter best to destroy it. And on the basis of what? Skin color? Idiocy does not even come close to describing it.

When John Kerry was running for president last time around, there was much to-do about his wife's being born in Mozambique (daughter of a Portuguese doctor) -- she was born there, and so she could rightly call herself African. Those who chose to denigrate her pooh-poohed the very concept, because as the entire world knows, Africans, down to a single man, woman and child, are all black. Well, maybe except for those who perpetuated apartheid -- 'cause those were the *real* Africans. . .

Ah, but fear breeds contempt and destruction as much as familiarity breeds contempt and destruction (witness all the dysfunctional families about). And where does that leave us?

Would that more than one of us would learn.


Posted by: firsttimeblogger | July 8, 2007 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Pat on the back to Joel, by the way, for a good column. And to Firsttime as well. Mighty fine.

The police know who the trash dumper is. I may press charges. I was waiting to calm down to decide. I suspect the police are not used to people who want to decide things rationally. They don't meet many, I guess.

Posted by: Jumper | July 8, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

That I might have used the incorrect term for a 46 year old male is hardly the point. What I object to is the notion that the title of Joel's piece, and hence the piece itself, is in some way "gender insensitive."

Joel wrote a wonderful and very personal story about his experiences. And although I never knew busing, I enjoyed it as much for the image it gives of Joel as a 9 year pre-man as for any political insights.

I remember very much being a skinny and brainy kid. Perhaps not as brainy as Joel, but certainly as skinny.

To me one of the central points being made here is that kids live in their own small world. Whenever we thrust grown-up issues on them, or use them as pawns in grown-up problems, we do them a disservice.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 8, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

SCC -- "sun poisoning" -- not skin poisoning. Yep, time for lunch, during which I get to watch the (white) people sunning themselves at the pool which faces my condo unit, to get that wondrous, ultimate tan.

You betcha.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | July 8, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, I think you should press charges. Let this guy get away with it, and he may do it again, with worse consequences.

I agree that racism and prejudice are two different things. I guess the way I see it in my story about the lab monitor, prejudice and racism were intertwined. This guy watches the black kids, waiting for them to slip. Everyone slips, but if you only watch a certain segment of the population, they get in trouble while others never get caught. Maybe the system doesn't back it up as in, say, apartheid, but the result is still detrimental to the minority.

This lab monitor's family is VERY close to the superintendent. In fact, the superintendent arranged for this guy to have the job. If she knows of his attitudes and behaviors (how could she not?!?) and still created the job for him, it says a lot about the school system.

Since he needed someone to create a job for him, maybe he is angry and afraid and blaming "others" for his lack of success in life. I do wonder what the superintendent's motives are.

Overall, I couldn't be happier to have left that school system.

Posted by: a bea c | July 8, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I am the ultimate Boodle killer. An hour last night, and forty minutes today. I will lurk for a while, then.

Posted by: a bea c | July 8, 2007 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The Boodle is immortal, a bea c. It's just taking it's Sunday afternoon nap. Never fear.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 8, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Don't just lurk a bea c, I read your comments but don't know what to say to is out of my experience. I consider myself fortunate for the most part to have lived without meeting anyone like the lab assistant.

Posted by: dmd | July 8, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I want to be your neighbor, dmd. I worry about what my kids will learn growing up around here.

Posted by: a bea c | July 8, 2007 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I enjoyed reading The Boy on the Bus as it brought back memories of my childhood in the greater D.C. metro area and participating in the great social experiment of busing from an exclusively black neighborhood (re: apartment complex) to a suburban all-white neighborhood elementary school in Maryland. The 45-minute bus ride each way was an early introduction to the long commutes for work that are a staple of my adult life.

Although I was just 9 yrs. old when my busing experience began in the third grade (1974) I remember conversations with my mother about the legal battle that led to busing, the benefits of a quality education, the systemtic, life-long challenges I would face as a poorly-educated black man, and the sacrifices and lost opportunities of black generations past who were never given an opportunity to go to "better" schools. As a 9 year old, I had to trust in my mother's assessment of the advantages of busing versus my desire to go to school with some of my friends.

I recall the sense of trepidation I had on the first day I rode the bus and was greeted by a white bus driver whose smile conveyed the gravity of this experiment and the hope (that I shared) that it would work out. I also recall the masked anxiousness of my new teachers who were both the "guardians/educators" of the suburban white kids who could not afford to go to private school and the "gladiators" who had the unenviable task of fighting on the front lines this country's battle with racial ignorance.

I remember some of my teachers being scared. I remember some of the parents of white kids being scared & others being welcoming. I remember the parents of those black kids whom were bused being hopeful and apprehensive. I also remember the optimism and eagerness of my teachers and in particular my school administrators to make good on the promise of racial equality in education.

In many ways, mending of the country's racial divide was the responsibility of all the elementary children and their teachers charged with making this experiment work. It was a lot of responsibility to place on both subsets of the American population.

It is somewhat disconcerting to now watch the pendulum swing back towards what existed before integration. Although the motivation for racial segregation sometimes now is the result of self-selection and less so systemic societal racism, I believe that classism is the greater challenge of this generation. It tends to have the same effect as racism but is borne out of the socio-economic differences & prejudices of the masses.

The one institution that continues to have the most profound impact on this issue it has held for the past 40+ years is the U.S. Supreme Court. I disagree with the Supreme Court's interpretation on whether race should be a formal consideration (primarily because I believe that it remains an informal consideration despite the gains of the last 40 years) in doling public education, government contracts, etc. I personally benefitted from earlier Supreme Court decisions giving rise to educational programs that accounted for race in providing me with opportunities I would likely have never enjoyed otherwise. I still had to work hard to achieve whatever modicum of success I now enjoy. (By the way, I define success as owing a car, owning a house and putting food on the table.) I simply know that the educational opportunities of which I took advantage were not available to my father or mother's generation or others that preceded them. I was fortunate in their eyes.

I am concerned that the past 40 years cannot make up enough ground to erase the disadvantages of the 400 years that preceded it. For those kids who come along now, I can only hope that they find a way through devoted & diligent parenting, caring teachers, hard work, and/or a little bit of luck. They are going to need it.

Posted by: CJ | July 8, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

What a fascinating memoir, and thank you CJ for chiming in. CJ, Manon, y'll imaginary friends, howdy.

I counted myself lucky to ride a bus because, being "rural", we lived way too far out to walk and my folks did not always want to drive us. Now, the buses don't run out this far from the Boy's school, so parental drones of transportation step in. Like my parents, I'm looking forward to the time when the Boy can legally drive. Funniest bus story: open windows, windy day, boy with spit cup for chewing tobacco. We saw it coming and all moved to the other side of the bus as he gleefully tossed the cup's contents out the window and they all blew back in on him.

I started school in a majority black independent school district. It was great for observing racial differences and assigning them a social role -- not very important, I must say. We just didn't care about race as much as brains, or fast running, or cuteness, or whatever it was kids paid attention to in elementary school. When I moved to a bigger school, it had been integrated by busing several years earlier, though formerly majority black. I think some other schools in the district still had racial strife, but we didn't. Because we were on the "wrong side" of the tracks everyone left us alone and we followed our natural instincts, which were to get along. Although the schools here are becoming more single-race majority again (and I think of that as a bad thing), the Boy is attending very mixed schools. He tends not to describe people by skin color if they have some other outstanding feature (tallness, glasses, lunches of interest).

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 8, 2007 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Wow, CJ... thanks for so beautifully expressing your point of view.

Posted by: TBG | July 8, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

CJ -- in your comments I am struck by one of my favorite lines from Gerald and Sara Murphy (expatriot buddies of F. Scott and his more-often-than-not crazy wife Zelda) in what must have been the '20s or '30s: "Living well is the best revenge".

There is a level of gumption which we all must have, some to make it to another day and others to make longer strides. We're not all blessed with strong foundations to our lives or our circumstances. The devil in the details which allows us to draw on our inner gumption is to find ways not to repeat and repeat and repeat that which is not at all good for us. I've never been fond of clinging to "tradition" and I've always been open to all kinds of cultural idiosyncrasies.

There's been plenty of discrimination (not to mention outright annihilation (attempted, at least) in my lineage. I've also witnessed members of my tribe turn into their most hated oppressors ("I can do it better than they ever could. See how powerful *I* am???"). That's something I've walked away from, head held high, bags packed and track shoes at the ever present ready.

Would that the choices made be those of self construction rather than self destruction. It pains me to witness some black kids talking about educational achievement as "acting white" when 150 years ago or so blacks were killed for learning how to read and write. It pains me, just as it does with respect to those in my own tribe, to witness more of an affinity for one's oppressors than for the opposite. That's where real honest-to-goodness independence is born, and can then be passed on.

Again, living well (indeed, living at all sometimes) is the best revenge. Don't ever cede control.

On another note, I've spent the past many weekends plowing through boxes and boxes and shelves and piles of stuff in my home office. Amazingly (well, not so much) I've been able to throw tons of stuff away (more than three bags full, you know). Filed away other piles, shredded still others. And what I also found, all neat in a set of folders, were my grandparents' marriage license (gramps' birthday was noted as having occurred in "the '80s" -- which was the *1880s* -- how's *that* for perspective???), their naturalization papers, mom's and dad's birth certificates (mom's name misspelled into a very funny word -- what were they *thinking* in the bureaucracy in 1912?) -- also a letter from mom's brother (who will have been 100 at the end of this year) describing her birth (mom was the youngest of four, and he had just turned four years old a few months prior). I just sat and read and reread all this stuff. I've seen it before, and now I have it all where this time I *know* where it is. Death certificates for everyone. At the end of the day, these things do have meaning, but they should not ever be the reason for following some so-called *tradition* which knocks one off track.

Forgive today's volubility. Making up for lost time, perhaps. Buying some lurking time in the future, maybe.

Whaddya think?

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | July 8, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

The guy tried to kill you. You may be able to have the choice to drop assault, but speaking as somebody who is deathly afraid of death by vehicle, I would ask you to press charges.

He could wind up in a road rage incident
and kill a few people for real down the line.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 8, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

CJ thank you for your memories.

Posted by: dmd | July 8, 2007 4:37 PM | Report abuse

CJ, welcome. Sorry for not knowing if you've posted here in the past! But either way, please come back.

Posted by: dbG | July 8, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Topic change... it is friggin' HOT outside.

Took daughter to camp a couple of hours southwest of here. On the way home the car thermometer fluctuated between 99-101 outside temp. Yikes.

Posted by: TBG | July 8, 2007 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Unpleasant here too TBG, it has been cloudy and rainy on and off but very humid

Posted by: dmd | July 8, 2007 5:08 PM | Report abuse

I thought the whole idea was to get rid of the snakeheads, not try and make them a sport fish. Eventually they may be the only fish left in the river. I know if I ever catch one, it isn't going to be catch and release. I may release it from it's existance. Oh ok sorry my rant is over, back to your regular programming.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | July 8, 2007 5:29 PM | Report abuse

greenwithenvy-Although many who fish, perhaps even a small majority, practice catch and release I can tell you that over-fishing is a real danger once a species becomes popular with anglers. I say have tournaments, Friday night all you can eat snakehead fries, competition between trendy restaurants to have the most desireable snakehead entrees... Before long your snakehead problem is over.

Posted by: frostbitten | July 8, 2007 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for making me laugh and how are you doing in this heat. Reached 98 here in west by god today. Too hot to fish unless you are in the river and I mean IN.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | July 8, 2007 5:45 PM | Report abuse

greenwithenvy-The wicked weekend heat has finally broken, without the temp hitting the dreaded 90. Minnesotans pretty much collapse at 90.

In the last 2 hours the temp has dropped from 85 to 78 but the humidity is only 42 after hovering around 80 until just after noon.

Posted by: frostbitten | July 8, 2007 6:04 PM | Report abuse

CJ, that's a great post. Thank you!!

I've been out in the country at my favorite swimming hole and have been studiously offline all day. But tomorrow I'll post annotations to the Outlook (a lot of material didn't make it into the story, and there are some interesting links to contemporary accounts circa 1970).

And there's a chat at 1. You can send in questions at any point prior to or during the chat -- If you're not around from 1 to 2 go ahead and send in a question in advance. Or a comment, etc...

Posted by: Achenbach | July 8, 2007 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Great article, Joel. I got a little misty-eyed reading it. I think busing was something that had to be tried. Voluntary efforts weren't happening - it was 16 years after Brown vs Board of Education. It seemed to break some barriers down and prove to most people that the world would not end if blacks and whites went to school together. But it created other problems and friction. Every child deserves a good education. a bea c, your post this morning is so sad, and shows that there is still lots of work to be done.

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 8, 2007 8:19 PM | Report abuse

I hope the chat goes well, Joel, and that you end up with a lot of first-hand stories and very few second-hand rants.

Since those with insightful comments are busy submitting them to Joel, I guess this clears the field for off-topic comments.

Regarding "catch and release." In his book "Founding Fish" John McPhee makes an argument that c&r is actually brutal to the fish. He argues that the induced trauma frequently kills the fish. And given the number of c&r fishermen who strive for ridiculously high scores, the damage done is far greater than if a fisherman were simply to catch what could be eaten and let the rest be.

Was brutally hot here in Fairfax as well. What Neil Simon might call "Africa hot." The 'maters seem to like it, though, because I harvested about a dozen nice juicy ones. We made a delightful salsa-like substance and consumed large quantities on toasted Italian bread.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 8, 2007 8:26 PM | Report abuse

TBG, your iron story made me laugh. I don't iron either - so my clothes are as wrinkled as yours! I remember my mom ironing all the time. She didn't even have a spray iron when I was little - she used a Coke bottle filled with water with some kind of perforated cap to dampen the clothes. And she used to recite my favorite books to me (the ones that I wanted read over and over, so that she knew them by heart) while she ironed. When my son was in middle school, he learned how to iron because whatever "all the kids" were wearing demanded it. And I must have protested, or maybe done a bad job of it, if he asked me to iron his clothes.

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 8, 2007 8:33 PM | Report abuse

"She used a Coke bottle filled with water with some kind of perforated cap to dampen the clothes."

That's exactly what my mom used! A small glass coke bottle that she had for years. Stuck in the top was one of these (a red one)...

(Thanks to the wonder of Google Images)

Posted by: TBG | July 8, 2007 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Howdy again. It is hot here too, so we all went to the movies. Saw "Ratatouille" and it was very good. The preceding short, "Lifted", is also funny. I like the way Pixar brought back shorts before their films.

My mom also had one of those ironing bottles. At one time when I was really too little to take in television, I used to pretend iron the towels with my grandmother's old sad irons (cold, of course) while she ironed and we both watched "Dark Shadows". I have an iron but decided years ago that cotton and linen just wrinkle anyway on the car drive to work.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 8, 2007 9:31 PM | Report abuse

The one my mom used (and us too, once in high school) was metal, so all silvery-looking. She'd sprinkle all the clothes then wrap them up in a sheet and put them in the downstairs fridge.

I finally went out and bought an iron a few years back after I had to borrow one from a neighbor for a specific *date* blouse. I've used it once a year since then, so much for amortization.

Posted by: dbG | July 8, 2007 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Excellent article Joel. The comments were insightful and moving. I can't add anything except the wish that there was a good solution to the inequality in education and the stupidity that fear breeds.

The heat broke here tonight with a series of heavy showers but it will return tomorrow. Tired from entertaining the granddaughters, it was fun but very labor intensive.

I don't understand you people who don't iron, are all your clothes permanent press, do you take everything to the dry cleaners? Not that I like to iron, but most of my summer clothes wouldn't be presentable otherwise. I mean no disrespect, by the way, just curious.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | July 8, 2007 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Did your moms use starch with the water bottles? My mom was queen of starch, although I detest ironing I actually do it very well, I was trained early on ironing and starching and then folding - in a precise shape Dad's hankerchiefs (sp?). The kids rebelled when she tried to put perfect creases in jeans.

Posted by: dmd | July 8, 2007 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, I am filled with envy. While we were on vacation I really wanted to see "Ratatouille." Unfortunately, neither my wife nor son wanted to see a "cartoon," and my daughter couldn't get past that whole "rodent" business.

So instead we saw IMAX dinosaurs in 3D.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 8, 2007 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Bad Sneakers, I work in a very relaxed office so a lot of what I wear is permanent press or lots of sweaters and T-shirts. I do iron if I have to but early in my working career I drove myself nuts ironing my clothes "perfectly" spending hours ironing. I learned to buy clothes that require less ironing but still look good.

Posted by: dmd | July 8, 2007 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Bad Sneakers - Every item of clothing in our house is permanent press. Unless it is a T-shirt, Pure Cotton Need Not Apply.

The last time my wife pulled out the iron was to affix merit badges to my son's cub scout uniform.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 8, 2007 9:48 PM | Report abuse

RD, I heartily recommend "Ratatouille". Sneak out and see it yourself. It really isn't a cartoon, it is a Pixar spectacular with all the wizardry and professionalism that entails; it was written and produced by Brad Bird, the guy behind the Simpsons; and Peter O'Toole is one of the voices. One even gets used to the rodents.

Although I'm sure IMAX 3D dinosaurs were a good substitute.

Bad Sneakers, anything really good I dry clean. Beyond that, I snatch clothes out of the dryer or hang them dry, and just go wrinkly. Very occasionally I'll break out the iron. I actually enjoy ironing, because the results are tangible and immediate, but it just isn't a time priority for me.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 8, 2007 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Anything cotton or wool that wrinkles, which includes work shirts and slacks, goes to the cleaners. Other stuff I just try to take out of the drier as soon as possible and I don't care if it is a little wrinkled. My son has probably ironed more things in the past year than I have.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 8, 2007 9:53 PM | Report abuse

My mother used a Coke bottle with the perforated top too, though I remember it as being metal-colored--aluminum or tin, or something like that. She made my brother and me learn how to iron our clothes, which I always disliked--couldn't get the hang of draping the shirt over the end of the ironing board to get the collar and placket right. To this doay I can fold almost anything properly--except a shirt.

Anybody else here watch "Foyle's War" on Masterpiecve Theater? I've got a mad crush on Honeysuckle Weeks, even though almost everything about her is "not my type" except for the English accent. But she's great. (And Michael Kitchen is a great actor, but definitely not my type.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 8, 2007 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Bad Sneakers... what RD said. Permanent press, denim and t-shirts. I don't remember what linen looks like. My husband takes his shirts to the laundry. His reward for years of ironing his own early in the morning.

We used to get bags and bags of hand-me-downs from my sister's sons, who are just a few years older than mine. Loads and loads of t-shirts, all folded and ironed paper thin. She could fit probably 30 t-shirts into one paper grocery bag.

They went to all sorts of tennis camps and soccer camps and I think every activity they were involved in garnered them a t-shirt.

Some summers it was like I didn't even have to do laundry. He would reach into a bag every day and pull out a new t-shirt to wear.

Posted by: TBG | July 8, 2007 10:01 PM | Report abuse

In the '60s and earlier, we had an iron that weighs a ton. It's all manual and a real museum piece. The iron opened up to reveal an empty chamber. We would heat up charcoal and place them inside the chamber.

I used to watch my sister iron clothes. They would sprinkle the clothes with water, rolled them up and then covered them with a sheet before they commenced ironing. I was a home alone kid and one of my chores was starching the clothes and hanged them out in the sun. After those clothes were ironed, they could stand!

Posted by: rain forest | July 8, 2007 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Aluminum. That was it. Thanks, Mudge.

I dry-clean at home, hang things to dry if they're wet and buy permanent ironed cotton. Stuff looks great, although I miss that starch smell. I also wear lightweight sweaters a lot.

Posted by: dbG | July 8, 2007 10:08 PM | Report abuse

SCC : "they" should be "she"

Posted by: rain forest | July 8, 2007 10:09 PM | Report abuse

In some respects, it looks as though the second Reconstruction ended a bit like like the first, albeit with very different rules. Both times, the Supreme Court has ended up supporting the Redemption agenda. These seem to bookmark the two eras:

Challenging U.S. Apartheid: Atlanta and Black Struggles for Human Rights, 1960-1977 by Winston A. Grady-Willis

White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism by Kevin M. Kruse

I live in a Florida town that seems to have been white-only, with blacks confined to a separate community. A number of other agricultural towns seem the same way--blacks lived in a distinct, separate community. Oddly, the county-wide school boards in Florida would seem to have made desegregation a bit simpler than in urban areas with myriads of suburban school districts.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | July 8, 2007 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Wow... looks like we've found a pressing subject to discuss!

Posted by: TBG | July 8, 2007 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Perma-press 100% cotton dress shirts are sufficiently good (and stay decent-looking so much longer) that I wonder why anyone messes with wrinkly ones.

All else gets drip dried.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | July 8, 2007 10:26 PM | Report abuse

I'm watching Flight of the Conchords (hilarious show on HBO) and I can hear a mouse scurrying about in the bottom kitchen cupboard. Ewww.

My cat is fast asleep. No interest at all. Same with my husband.

Looks like it's time to set the traps again. The last time we did this, my husband kept score. Every morning I'd come downstairs to see the tic marks and the pictures of cute little mice--with 'X's for eyes.

Posted by: TBG | July 8, 2007 10:43 PM | Report abuse

The wheels on the bus go round and round...

I enjoyed Joel's article and look forward to tomorrow's chat. Reading CJ's comments and others on the subject was also thought-provoking.

Reminds me of a small replica I have of the 1964 painting titled "The Problem We All Live" by Norman Rockwell. It pictures a little pony-tailed black girl in a white dress, holding a school book and ruler, being escorted by white men in suits and badges. 43 years later the painting and subject remain controversial. But less so in my opinion. We have made progress. But we shall never forget.

Posted by: birdie | July 8, 2007 11:31 PM | Report abuse

I wear casual clothes to work - jeans and blouses - which seem to be ok without ironing.

Ewww, rodents. I have lots of bags of yarn in the bedroom, and heard some rustling a couple months ago in the night. Yesterday I was going through the bags looking for some knitting needles, and found the bottom of a bag chewed out, like a mouse would do. Ewww. I haven't seen any other evidence of a mouse, though. But I've got to get that stuff cleaned up.

BTW, the Alison Krauss concert was excellent. She's quite funny, which I didn't expect, because she seems so quiet and serious. She says silly things in a deadpan delivery, teases the band - they're all a bunch of cutups. The music was great - her voice is so gorgeous, and Jerry Douglas on dobro is amazing.

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 8, 2007 11:48 PM | Report abuse

mostly... one Christmas I went down to get my decorations from the basement storage room and found among them a bag with just some glitter and pipe cleaners at the bottom.

After looking more carefully I realized the bag had held a gingerbread house when I put it away the year before.

Posted by: TBG | July 9, 2007 12:02 AM | Report abuse

*backboodling madly*

I have to say, I grew up in a very white town in a very white state, and only heard of busing in regards to Boston.

*Vacationing Grover waves to all*


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 9, 2007 5:42 AM | Report abuse

*still madly backBoodling*

On the movie front, I can recommend "Transformers" fairly strongly for a summer blockbuster.


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 9, 2007 6:01 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. Gonna be a hot one here today--they're talking about a high of about 98 or 99. I've got a leg therapy appointment again this morning, so won't be back to boodle until about 11 or so. And Mrs. C is going out of town for four days starting this morning, so I'm bacheloring it all week. I have received extensive training on plant-watering, the timing thereof, special precautions, etc. She says if anything dies while she's away, I'm to be held accountable. Great--she picks a week when the temp is gonna be in the high 90s.

I see the lead story is about the crackerjack Bush administration's failure to staff the Departmernt of Homeland Security adequately. I'm guessing security isn't a large priority with that outfit right now, I guess. On the other hand, I suppose it's a good thing they didn't fill it with a bunch of Michael Brown-type hacks.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 9, 2007 6:12 AM | Report abuse

Now for more pressing matters -- I can wield a fairly effective iron, thanks to years of creasing Army uniforms...


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 9, 2007 7:04 AM | Report abuse

Good morning. I'll put up a new kit (annotations of this story, etc.) around 10 a.m.

Meantime this is an interesting piece by Shankar on lead poisoning as the main cause of crime (seems a bit simplistic, no? --but thought provoking):

And I highly, highly recommend the Finkel story from Baghdad. Start reading that one and you can't stop.

Posted by: Achenbach | July 9, 2007 7:12 AM | Report abuse

Good morning everybody--

I'm at my parents' house for the week, but have my laptop and dialup so I can check in occasionally. I'm up early doing work so I can justify having the laptop (it's company property.)

So, I'm quartered in the back bedroom which serves as my dad's study; hundreds of books in there, very interesting mix. But on the bedside table? Two books: Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz and stacked on top of that, Captured by Aliens.

My dad always has books waiting for me when I get here. The one I'm reading now is a good one for a boodle recommendation. It's called "What is Your Dangerous Idea?" a collection of short essays by a variety of authors. Sample titles: The Self is A Conceptual Chemera, This is All There Is, Science Must Destroy Religion, Science is Just Another Religion, Marx Was Right: The State Will Evaporate, Using Medications to Change Personalities, and so on...

On my Dallas-Tulsa flight, I had the most interesting encounter I've ever had on an airplane. My next-seat neighbor was on his way home from Afghanistan, where he was sent by the Army in spite of his fluency in Arabic (he is slightly bitter about that). A history major who did graduate work in Native American history, he grew up on a farm in rural Oklahoma. I haven't stopped thinking about that discussion; we covered a lot of ground. Possibly we will continue the conversation via email after he goes back overseas.

Posted by: kbertocci | July 9, 2007 7:55 AM | Report abuse

KB -- quick shout-out to you. I know that your presence and conversation meant so much to that young man. If you continue, by email, during his next deployment, you could be a tether. Tether is what my special forces brother calls human-contact from the outside.

Sometimes the tether is this simple: stupid knock-knock jokes. During the war, my brother said that the knock-knock jokes provided by CeePeeBoy were are regular request, by his comrads.

I suspect that that soldier appreciated that you saw him as intelligent, thoughtful, and in Whitman's term, "containing multitudes." Warfighters are not one-dimensional patriotic grunts. Among our basic human needs is to be seen as authentic by another. So, good for you.

Posted by: College Parkian | July 9, 2007 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Good morning!

Hey, Rainforest, we had an iron like the one you describe. It was a bookend. I used to hide candy in it so my siblings wouldn't eat it.

Posted by: a bea c | July 9, 2007 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Happy Monday, everybody. Hey, Cassandra.

I'm at my brother's, helping with the kids till my sister-in-law gets back from Italy tomorrow. I'm on the kids' computer while my nephew plays Snood on mine...

Haven't read the story about DHS, but I'm not surprised that they are having problems with staff. Last year about this time, the White House decided not to ask our fire chief to head the US Fire Administration, after stringing him (and us) along for a year or so. The post eventually went to the Virginia Beach fire chief, but it took months. The whole process is a farce, and no truly competent member of the fire/emergency service wants to be a part of it.

How long till January 20, 2009? Too long, I'm afraid.

Posted by: slyness | July 9, 2007 8:11 AM | Report abuse

560 days Slyness, way, way, way to long!

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | July 9, 2007 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Good morning everyone!

JA's links were well worth following. The lead connection to violent crime may be a bit simplistic as described in the article, but I'm buying the basic premise.

Posted by: frostbitten | July 9, 2007 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Good morning everyone. It is 65 here now, hard to believe the temp is going to rise 30 degrees today, but it did yesterday.

I don't currently own an iron, although I have been looking for a cast iron iron. I use the snap method of making my dress shirts look ironed. Taught to me by a friend. Take them out of the dryer hot and snap them and hang them up. It has been working pretty good so far.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | July 9, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Tear jerker of a story this morning, it is about a procession that took the six soldiers killed in Afganistan on July 4 down the highway from Trenton to Toronto. The story involves the people who came to line a bridge in a small town to honour the fallen.

Posted by: dmd | July 9, 2007 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone heard from Martooni the past couple of days?

Martooni, dude drop me a line at

Posted by: greenwithenvy | July 9, 2007 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Great article. I went to elementary school with the author (Stephen Foster Elementary, Gainesville, FL) and remember when it all happened... I didn't change schools, but instead, we had students segregated into ours, and it was quite a different story.

Very interesting to read about the other path.

Posted by: pdposey | July 9, 2007 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Howdy. Hey, kbertocci, welcome to Oklahoma. I'm sorry you're here for the heat, but the rain was worse. I sent you an email at that hotmail address; hope we can meet if we're in the same city this week.

I am still thinking about the busing thing. I had a lot of friends, black and white, who were more affected by racial tension than I was. I count myself very lucky. I've heard some of those stories like a bea c's, and they always make me angry and sad.

One thing really has changed here. Now, the segregation of children isn't just along racial lines. That is, everything isn't about black and white. There are substantial Vietnamese and Hispanic populations in our metro area as well. Counting kids as black or white doesn't really reflect the actual minority population.

The irony, of course, is that there has always been a significant Native American population, especially in the more rural areas, but even now nobody seems as interested in counting Indians.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 9, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

pdposey, welcome to the Boodle. It would be really interesting if you would share your story -- the other side of Joel's path, as you say.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 9, 2007 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

A busy day yesterday, but a productive one.
Finally finished a complete draft of something I'd been writing for awhile, ready for the first round of editing...

I'm very happy to note the new folks who've contributed here, CJ, pdposey, etc.
And firsttime, thanks for that perspective.

I'd noted media items regarding a correlation between lead-based paint and crime last week, not sure what to make of it either.

Trying to think of a good question for Joel's chat later, now that we have the Stephen Foster question out of the way.


Posted by: bc | July 9, 2007 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I find the lead poisoning connection to crime interesting. In my experience there are a lot of factors involved in the crime rate. While this certainly may be one of them, and the correlation certainly sounds convincing, I'm very reluctant to ascribe a rise or drop in crime levels solely to any particular factor. I don't think this study intends to do that, and it sounds like a valuable contribution as far as it goes. We had a former governor who used to brag that our state's crime rate went down because he had locked up all the criminals. Those of us who work in the system laughed and laughed.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 9, 2007 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Wow! I pop back after a week off, and find myself first on a new kit! I was a hog and claimed it before letting you know, though.

Posted by: Raysmom | July 9, 2007 10:43 AM | Report abuse

New Kit!

I got run over and claim first.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 9, 2007 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I remember back in high school, talking to my step-sister, and being one of those "anti-miscegenation" jerks who thought it was a bad idea for her to date a black guy -- although I couldn't come up with an articulate explanation for why it was a bad idea that would sound convincing even to myself. Partly, it was because I didn't like her very much and so I wanted to torment her. Mostly, however, it's because I was a jerk and more of a racist than I wanted to believe. Oh, I thought I was sophisticated and perceptive.

I remind myself of this incident, every now and then, to deflate my enormous ego and remind myself that moral superiority can be found in unlikely places -- like, in other people than oneself. It reminds me that I can grow up and be a better person each day than I was the day before, but I have a long way to go, because I started from pretty far back

Posted by: Tim | July 9, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I hope you can still like me, after my admission at 12:49. The posts that I have read so far (I haven't seen all of them up to this point) have been memories of being relatively enlightened, or not involved, or benefitting from busing. I don't doubt the truthfulness of any of these. But the reason we needed enforced busing was because most of us (whites) accepted a status quo in which racism wasn't our problem, it was somebody else's problem. We thought we had the world figured out, and it just so happened that the world disproportionately favored us. The biggest problem was that we didn't think we had a problem, so we argued and resisted fixing real problems that we didn't want to believe existed.

I look around and I see that we have learned and become better, and I think busing has been an important part of that. If we're going to keep learning, then I think we need to be honest with ourselves and remember where we were to start with -- the world that got shaken up when we were made to see ourselves more truthfully. Then, maybe, we can get a clearer view of what we have accomplished, and what we haven't accomplished yet. We can't make progress if we believe that nothing can change, that we can only be the people that we were 30 years ago; but we also can't change if we believe we have already reached perfection and have nothing more to do.

Posted by: Tim | July 9, 2007 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I also experienced busing in Gainesville. In 1972 I took a bus first to a Gainesville elementary school 2 miles from my house (Terwilliger) then waited for 30 minutes before boarding another bus to go clear across town to Williams elementary school. Unlike Joel's experience at Duval, our experience was not so harmonious and interracial incidents on the playground were frequent occurrences.

Posted by: Anon | July 9, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Great article, Joel. Thanks for sharing your experience. I just want to add my two cents on the issue of busing to achieve equality of education.

Joel is correct when he writes that concerned parents and dedicated teachers are vital to a good education. But back in the 70's, there were public schools in the South where black students had no books, paper, or pencils. In those same states, the white schools had books, lab equipment, and free school supplies.

Politicians confused cause with effect in using busing to redress these inequalities in education. The reason people received -- and will continue to receive unequal education -- is because of where they live.

Integrated neighborhoods produce integrated schools. When real estate agents take clients to see only homes in those neighborhoods "suited" to their race, they help perpetuate this inequality. And since the money schools receive is based on property taxes, the inequality is compounded.

The key to ending this inequality is not by spending millions on Blue Bird buses and diesel fuel. The key is for states to sever the link between property taxes and school funding once and for all, as Michigan has done.

The Supreme Court has now stopped the busing, so we will return to having poor kids in poor neighborhoods going to poor schools funded by low property taxes. Busing didn't fix the problem; it only treated a symptom.

Only when neighborhoods are integrated -- AND every school receives the the same funding per student will Americans receive equal educational opportunity.


Posted by: JD | July 9, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Achenbach,

Although I currently live in San Diego, CA, I was born and raised in Gainesville. My family became part of the Unitarian Universalist church in Gainesville when I was 10 and my entire K-12 education was completed in Gainesville's public schools (Finley, Westwood, and Eastside, respectively).

I attended Eastside High School from 1999 to 2003 as part of the International Baccalaureate program. Eastside is the #3 IB school in the nation but its racial and socio-economic situation is one of the most interesting experiences of my life. The IB program was placed at Eastside to bring whites and academically excellent students into a mostly low income black school. It was a strange experience to say the least. We were bused to school (unless you were rich enough to be given a car when you turned 16, which a fair number of IB students were, to my parent's dismay) and in the first years occupied completely different areas of the school from the rest of Eastside students.

I truly enjoyed reading what Gainesville was like in the 70's and being able to relate to how much it has changed and how much it hasn't. I applaud you for examining the busing and segregation of our public schools, it is an issue far from resolved.

My parents are extremely involved in the UU church in Gainesville and I have a feeling your article will be making the rounds this Sunday.


K Mareci

Posted by: K Mareci | July 9, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

In the discussion, a writer said "Are people really that naive to believe that whites and blacks want to merge as one? I for one want to keep my white European heritage and culture alive as long I can breathe. Multiculturalism and integration is a waste of time." And Joel accused him of wearing a hood. I think that's harsh. I grew up in a state that was almost all-white, and when I became a community organizer in a black neighborhood in Denver I was educated by the experience. There were lots of people living there who could have afforded to live anywhere and chose a black neighborhood. In my ignorance, that had not occurred to me.

The writer could have more diplomatically said "a. my Irish (or whatever) heritage is important to me and b. why should I assume a black person *wants* to live next door to me? Isn't that arrogant on my part?"

Busing was about getting better schools for black kids, but the courts could just as easily have ordered spending to be equalized while the students stayed in place. But there was a (racist, I think) assumption that a school with white kids in it is better just because there are white kids there and that no matter how much was spent on a black school it would still be inferior because it was black. Isn't *that* the underlying assumption of busing?

Posted by: Nancy Slator | July 11, 2007 9:53 AM | Report abuse

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