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A topical obit of a local figure given the upcoming Fisher/affirmative action oral argument this week:
By 1964, however, he had decided that the effort was too piecemeal and that black and white students remained largely isolated from one another. He put together what he called the White Plains Racial Balance Plan, which essentially called for busing hundreds of children so that no school had less than 10 percent minority enrollment or more than 30 percent. He also closed one school that had been overwhelmingly black.
To ease the way in putting the plan into effect, he built alliances with PTA leaders and the editor of the local newspaper. “He was a Southerner and kept his drawl, and I don’t think people saw him coming,” his son said.
The busing plan fell into place with remarkably little resistance. Four years later, the schools could report a rise in test scores for black students, no decline in white scores and no significant white exodus out of the school system.
Johnson was from Georgia, so many some were wary about his bona fides, but like various other heroes of the day (such as key judges, who faced shunning or worse), he worked to advance basic American values. And, "became a model for other school systems in their desegregation efforts.” The care and complexity of his efforts, including something quite controversial in many areas (e.g., busing) when necessary and efforts to work with local parental groups (PTA leaders) is a guide that applies today as well. The problem of integration and good education remains.
The state of local schools and de facto segregation underlines the point. A personal tidbit: I know someone who went to White Plains high school about a decade ago and from what I can gather, it is a pretty good one. One thing that impressed me was his comfort level with a diverse group of people of all races. That was a given too for me in public school though somewhat less, even though the school was near a minority heavy area, when I went to a parochial high school. My parochial intermediate school was that not integrated. This was in compare to my public grade school.
I think integrated schools are quite important and yes, if we have to be somehow race conscious about advancing that end, it to me seems to be a constitutional effort. We should be able to find a possible line there. Integration benefits everyone and is not somehow "unequal" as an ultimate aim. Yes, in the process, race is taken into account, but the system applies to all. It is "equal protection" in that fashion. If it is not, was Johnson acting unconstitutionally to try to raise minority enrollment?