Today, news for people who are surprised by sunrise: The Associated Press reports* that Marie G. Davis Middle School, of Charlotte, North Carolina, when given the chance to segregate itself racially, did. Some federal court, in a fit of intelligence, said that you couldn’t force parents to bus children to schools politically acceptable to Washington. The school, 44% white the summer before the court made its decision, was that fall 5% white.
The whites went away. I’m all astonished, like I am when teenagers think about sex.
Of course the school resegregated. Any fool could have told you it would. Fact is, the races just don’t want to be around each other. It’s plain as a sore toe in tight shoes. If you watch what the races do, instead of listen to what the talking heads say they ought to do, you can see that both sides would rather live with hung-over alligators. But you get fired if you notice it, so we all look the other way and act like we’re thinking about something else. (“Naw, I didn’t see the sun rise. What sun?”)
We talk about the American dream, but the country likes delusions better. We believe things are what we insist they are. If we think a pup-dog oughta be a backhoe, we figure all we gotta do is say he is, and act like we really really believe it, and lie, and make everybody pretend, and maybe put diesel oil in his dog bowl-and he’ll sprout a scoop and start cutting underground telephone cables. It doesn’t matter if everybody knows it’s a lie-if you can make them pretend, and put them in jail if they don’t. It’s as American as tortillas.
Think about it. Where do black and white get together on purpose? I mean, without the police, national guard, federal marshals, judges, seven thousand laws, and the entire federal government, to make them? Answer: They don’t. Give people the slightest say about who they want to be with, and they’re gone. That’s what happened in Charlotte, isn’t it?
People like being with their own. Always have, always will. When you force them to be together instead of giving them the choice, then you get trouble. The less they have in common, the more trouble you get. Then you can holler about racism and squash folks together even more. It’s like Prohibition, making people do what they don’t want, because you think they ought to want it.
When black kids come into a white college, the first thing they do is want black dorms and black fraternities, and the white kids don’t seem in much of a hurry to catch them and bring them back. It’s how it always is. When I was a military reporter, the blacks on base wanted soul music at the club, and the whites wanted country and western. The blacks got the club because the commander was afraid of them. The whites went to town to listen to Merle Haggard. Which may or may not have been a reasonable choice, but it’s what they did.
Go to a party of a hundred rich, white, unrelentingly good, racially correct people in Washington, and you will find three blacks to shuffle and look embarrassed and be credentials. The ninety-seven white people will make a point of talking awkwardly to them so everybody will know they are not prejudiced. Ask the whites in a loud voice where their kids go to school.
Do you see more whites at black parties? I don’t know. I’ve never been to one. It’s a segregated country.
How about at work? It’s a snake pit, with the federal government making it hang together, barely. Best I can tell, blacks figure they’re getting discriminated against, and oppressed, and enslaved. Whites-regularly, invariably, everywhere, every time-say most blacks don’t work, have attitudes, advance entirely on pigmentation, and you have to do their work for them. You could argue about who is right, but that’s just it: Neither side gets along well with the other, except when threatened.
Now, the AP story carefully avoided the crucial question about the escape from Charlotte: Why did the white parents instantly withdraw their kids from a black school when given a whiff of freedom? The writer implied that Charlotte, being in the South, was prejudiced, and that racism was behind the flight, snore. Reporters everywhere understand what they are paid to say, but I don’t think his heart was in it.
Let me suggest another reason, which I have not verified. Should I be wrong, I will happily say so, and eat Jim Crow. But, knowing as I do the inveracity of the media, I will speculate.
I suggest that the black students at the school were academically far below the whites-that the white parents were trying to do something, anything, to keep their children at an intellectual level consistent with their notions of civilization. I suspect that the black students had no interest in European history, in mathematics, languages, chemistry. I don’t say they should be interested, just that they pretty regularly aren’t. If I am wrong. I will happily retract. Show me. I’d love to be wrong.
Maybe I am. It may be that academic performance of blacks at Marie G. Davis Middle School refutes the aggregate experience of centuries, of daily experience and common intuition. And Elvis may materialize in my room tonight and sing Heartbreak Hotel. I’d like that. Even stranger things could happen. The Redskins could win.
But I’m not betting the Vette.
Further, I will bet that the black kids ganged up and pushed the white kids around. It may not be universal, but an awful lot of white kids report it.
Now, maybe all this shouldn’t ought to be true. And maybe pup-dogs ought to grow exhaust stacks and glow plugs. Thing is, sooner or later “shouldn’t ought” runs into “is.”
The reality it that if it weren’t for unrelenting compulsion and intimidation, the races would separate like newly weds five years later. Without affirmative action and the EEO police, offices would barely be integrated. Schools, if parents were free, would do what Charlotte did. The whole lash-up is compulsory, artificial, contrived, and almost nobody wants it.
If you don’t think so, drop the compulsion and wait five minutes.
No, I don’t know what to do about it, except hide. My best guess is let people live how they want and hire people on merit. But that’s not the American way.
Gotta run. Elvis just showed up.
*Washington Times, January 2