In fourth grade my family recieved the news that our school system was desegregating. This meant that I was not going to be going to our neighborhood grade school anymore but was going to be “bussed” instead to a school in a nearby town that was “all black”. At least that’s how my parents portrayed it. In reality the school was probably about 50% black and 50% white but to my parents that was close enough to be “all black”. My parents were scared and angry.

Bussing almost caused our family to move out of St. Louis County entirely. I began hearing things about small towns an hour or so away from us that “still had good schools”. I was terrified. All I knew was that bussing was a bad thing and that I was heading into a danger zone. But I also didn’t want to leave my friends and neighborhood behind.

Looking back I can empathize with my parents a little bit. They had the expectation that my schooling would follow the same path as my older brother. I would go to the neighborhood grade school till 6th grade, then the Junior High, then the High School. Part of why our family moved to the area was so that we could go to the neighborhood grade school. They didn’t want us to be sent to another school, much less one in a different city and certainly not one that was “all black”.

I clearly remember the first day of the new school. I walked into the building the first time feeling small and wary. It was a middle school which meant there were only 5th and 6th graders and there were a lot of kids milling around. I honestly expected to be the only white kid there surrounded by a sea of blackness. I quickly realized how wrong that was when I began to see the familiar faces of some of my friends. Yes there were a lot of black kids there and I wasn’t quite sure how to relate to them. On the surface they seemed okay but who knows what they were really like?

I expected there to be fighting every day at middle school. I expected to be personally threatened. I expected some unspecified bad thing to happen. My parents would quiz me after school. Did anyone get hurt? Did anyone threaten me? Just how many of the kids in my class were black and how many were white? What about the teachers? Were they black? I actually only had one black teacher (my gym teacher) and he was a 7 foot tall former basketball player and was one of the nicer men I have ever met.

Looking back it was a very good educational and social opportunity. I made black friends for the first time. Not many but I did get to know some pretty well. They seemed nice. They talked a little different than me and liked different music. Other than that it was a pretty uneventful two years.

Even many years later my parents would talk about how I “got bussed” and what a bad thing that was. I know it was supposed to be a bad thing but I couldn’t help liking my middle school. For the first time I began to distance myself from my parents’ views and question them.