Kamala Harris’s Berkeley school days

The East Bay Times reports on the busing of Kamala Harris in Berkeley, California circa 1970, about which I have been speculating. If the report is accurate, Harris’s claim that she was “part of the second class to integrate her public schools” is not quite true.

Berkeley’s public schools were integrated long before Harris was bused. However, the busing program that more fully integrated her elementary school was instituted the year before Harris started school.

The elementary school in question, Thousand Oaks Elementary, was in an affluent area in the Berkeley hills. Before the busing commenced, it was more than 90 percent white, according to the East Bay Times. Thus, Harris exaggerated when she said she was part of the second class to integrate her school. The school was already integrated. However, it became more fully integrated as a result of busing.

Joe Biden’s response to Harris — that the school district implemented the busing program voluntarily, not pursuant to a court order — is true. According to the Times, the busing program was the brainchild of a “progressive” superintendent.

The most interesting question to me was whether, absent the busing, Harris would not have attended an integrated school. Harris was careful not to make this claim, but I think she was trying to create that impression.

It seems clear that Harris would have attended an integrated school absent busing. The Times describes Harris’s neighborhood as “more diverse [and] less affluent” than the neighborhood to which she was bused. Because the neighborhood was racially diverse, the local school would have been too. As I had speculated, busing was not required for Harris to attend a racially integrated school.

What, then, was the point of the busing? Clearly, it was to increase the number of blacks at Thousand Oaks and other schools in affluent areas. The assumption, presumably, was that blacks would receive a better education at these schools than at their neighborhood school.

The Times suggests that they did, and that might well have been the case. But the only evidence it presents is from a black woman who says that the “times tables” she learned at the school to which she was bused set her on the path to becoming an engineer.

The notion that students had to be bused in order to learn “times tables” is ludicrous.

Moreover, to the extent black students got a better education by virtue of being bused to affluent neighborhoods, white students who were transported to the “diverse” schools must have received a worse education due to busing. The busing Harris touts should be viewed as an attempt to favor some students over others due to their race. As such, it should be considered unconstitutional.

The one thing we know for sure is that both black and white students were yanked from their neighborhoods, separated from their friends, and spent an inordinate amount of time getting to and from school. No wonder Berkeley discarded the busing program in the 1990s.

If Harris is the Democratic nominee for president or vice president, I hope she will be asked to state her position on the busing of young school children for racial purposes in today’s America.