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21 Integration Efforts and Agonies growing older, despite its numerous drawbacks, carries with it certain advantages. One’s life, I’ve only recently discovered, gains a sort of historical resonance, and even richness, as the years march by. My birth year, 1968, looms over my shoulder as perhaps the most tumultuous year in modern American history. The social upheaval that defined the 1960s reached its bloody crescendo in 1968 with the Vietnam Tet offensive, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, the student and worker uprisings in Paris, and the police riot at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The assassinations of King and Kennedy represented a crushing blow to the Civil Rights movement, but the tragedies also galvanized the resolve of many Americans to fulfill the promise of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Of particular concern here, the era of my childhood would represent the zenith of our country’s efforts— at the federal and local levels—to desegregate our public schools. The thorny racial quandaries surrounding public education; the embattled school assignment policies within school districts; the legal wrangling at every judicial level— these realities defined my experiences, and the experiences of my teammates, in the LAUSD of the 1970s and 1980s. Moreover , these controversies remain a current event in L.A., south Florida, and throughout our nation. Litigation in the Los Angeles Superior Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, in addition to various ballot initiatives and state executive orders in other states, threaten today to accelerate the rapid resegregation of our public schools, a resegregation that began in earnest just after my graduation from high school in 1986. I will return to these recent developments 22 • My Los Angeles in Black and (Almost) White later. But given the currency of the issues at hand, given all that’s at stake, it seems crucial to examine the terms of those early judicial efforts to desegregate the schools in L.A., which provided a particular integrated educational experience for my teammates and me. I will locate these teammates, as many of them as I can find, shortly. A trip to L.A., I know, looms on the horizon. But before there was a Jeff Inzar, a TMac, a Sean Brown, a Dennis Bishop, before there was a me, there was a Jay R. Jackson, Jr. First things first. Jay R. Jackson and his wife, Lucia, I imagine, had only noticed in 1961 what most families with children in the Washington Junior High School zone of the Pasadena City School District probably noticed. A separate, predominantly white, junior high school in the area (attended primarily by students graduated from the predominantly white Linda Vista Elementary) had recently withdrawn from the district, leaving it to the school board to rezone these students to a new junior high school. From a geographical standpoint, Washington was the obvious choice to absorb the Linda Vista graduates. Washington was closer to Linda Vista than any other junior high school in the district. However, a voluble constituency of Linda Vista parents, alarmed by this imminent prospect, exerted pressure upon the board to assign their children to McKinley Junior High School, instead, populated by a considerably smaller percentage of minority students . The board acquiesced to these demands, essentially gerrymandering the McKinley zone to accommodate the white students. Why does it surprise me to learn about this episode? I suppose it has something to do with the prominence and sheer power of the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision in our popular imagination. This was the decision, of course, in which the U.S. Supreme Court—overturning their Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) “separate but equal” doctrine—held that separate schools were inherently unequal and therefore violated the constitutional rights of minority children. Like most educated Americans, I suppose, I knew about those isolated pockets of resistance in Birmingham and in other deep south locales in the immediate aftermath of Brown. But, as naïve as it sounds, I had always assumed that willful segregation in the Integration Efforts and Agonies • 23 rest of the country pretty much ended the day after the Brown decision. So it surprises me to discover that efforts to maintain segregated schools— effectively, if not ostensibly—were fairly typical and transparent (to anyone paying attention) throughout the country after Brown.1 The Jacksons had only noticed what most people living in the Washington Junior High School zone of the Pasadena City School District had probably noticed...


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