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Opinion

Readers React: School busing benefited white students. Don’t forget that

Democratic Presidential Candidates Participate In First Debate Of 2020 Election Over Two Nights
Sen. Kamala Harris, right, and former Vice President Joe Biden, left, speak as Sen. Bernie Sanders looks on during the second night of Democratic presidential debate on June 27.
(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

To the editor: I was born in 1960 in Berkeley. By 1969 my third-grade class was integrated. That year, black students were bused to my school in the predominately white neighborhood I lived in. (“School busing and race tore L.A. apart in the 1970s. Now, Kamala Harris is reviving debate,” June 29)

The next three years, I was bused to a school in a predominately black neighborhood. The junior high was integrated, as was the high school.

There has been much said about black people benefiting from integration. What has not been expressed is the huge advantage integration gave to white students, as our lives and education were greatly enriched by the experience.

Attending integrated public schools had a profound, positive effect on who I am and my understanding of who we are as a society. My interpersonal relationships have far more depth and understanding because of my years in Berkeley’s integrated schools.

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This integration was liberating for all involved. The truth must not be forgotten.

John Chichester, South Pasadena

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To the editor: I’ve been an elementary school teacher, a college professor and the parent of a student. I’ve seen failed educational policies and lived through others.

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Busing, by far, was the worst idea with the best of intentions. Black and white parents couldn’t find enough good in this idea to be worth the millions spent on a bus ride rather than a better education.

My guess is that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) did not come from a home that considered busing an insult, where it was akin to being told, “You can’t live in the neighborhood, so we’ll give you the next best thing, sitting next to a white kid in their superior school.”

Many white parents with resources put their children in second-rate private schools, beginning the disintegration of Los Angeles public schools.

The point of Harris’ seemingly rehearsed outburst at the Democratic presidential debate was to raise her personal story at former Vice President Joe Biden’s expense. Perhaps future debates should focus on the real danger to education that is the Trump administration.

Linda Feldman, Santa Monica

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To the editor: A credible candidate with a record of accomplishment would not need to bring up an issue that “tore L.A. apart” 50 years ago. There are plenty of present-day problems to tackle.

Opportunism compelled Harris to choose as a debate tactic to focus on a painful historical iteration of racial tensions, couch it as relevant, and remind voters united against a divisive president just how divided they should be among themselves

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Now, she sees herself in the news cycle and relishes the attention. Sound familiar?

Steve Meister, Sherman Oaks

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