Busing and Backlash


School integration has been a national goal for nearly twenty year, so why is the busing of children to achieve this goal suddenly a political issue? Is white backlash wholly irrational? Is it based entirely on racial prejudice? Seeking answers to such questions, Dr. Rubin attended meetings, visited schools, and conducted detailed interviews with every one of the leaders of both factions to the integration controversy in Richmond, California.

At the outset of that battle, liberal integrationists commanded all five school board seats. Within four years, they were voted out of office and replaced by anti-integrationist conservatives who moved quickly to rescind existing integration plans and to institute changes in the school system that would reflect their own political and educational philosophy. Books were banned; programs became constrained and constricted; teachers became fearful; dissent was silence.

In a brilliant argument, Dr. Rubin insists that the social-psychological theories commonly advanced to explain right-wing political behavior are of little use in analyzing this conflict. Rather, she deals with the substance of conservative attitudes and arguments and finds that their position is largely consistent with self-interest, at least in the short run. On the other hand, although the author plainly sympathizes with the pro-integration forces, she exposes the contradictions in their political philosophy, their ambivalence about integration, and the vacillation and ineptitude of the liberal leaders.

Dr. Rubin’s research was conducted during the height of the controversy, and her book has the flavor of politics in action. Richmond is in many ways America in microcosm, and its agony reflects the pain in the land today. Busing and Backlash depicts a class conflict over life style, values, class interest, and political ideology, and carries important lessons for all school boards, political leaders, and concerned citizens during the present national crisis over school integration.