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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Jesse Helms, March 8, 1974. Interview A-0124. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Desegregation as "reverse discrimination"

North Carolina's voters are unhappy, Helms argues in a passage that reveals his opposition to desegregation. One issue in particular incenses them: what Helms calls "reverse discrimination" in the form of "forced busing." He believes that desegregation has hurt the quality of education and he hopes that angry voters will remove integrationists from office.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Jesse Helms, March 8, 1974. Interview A-0124. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Do you think politics in North Carolina, then, are more likely to revolve around personalities than parties?
No, I think they revolve around issues. And a complete disenchantment with headstrong government that intruded into the lives of every citizen, whether it be in North Carolina or otherwise. And the people basically, both consciously and subconsciously, are rejecting the kind of government that deprives them of their decision making right. They are unhappy about inflation, and why shouldn't they be? They are unhappy about forced bussing. You could pull any thread from the fabric, and you can find discontent. There's just a welling up of sentiment against too much government.
When you use the term forced bussing, what do you refer to specifically?
Well, I am speaking, of course, of government assignment of students on the basis of race. Now, we've got discrimination in reverse now, in this forced bussing. In the idea of children being assigned to schools on the other side of town, just to achieve some sort of "racial balance" that satisfies the whims or caprice of some bureaucrat or judge or both. And that's the way I'd describe forced bussing.
So with the Supreme Court mandate what it is at the moment, so far as school desegregation is concerned, and in urban areas where housing patterns tend to be based predominantly on race, how . . . what other means would be available to desegregate the schools?
Well, I'm not saying that desegregation is the important thing. I think education is the important thing, and one thing that everybody agrees on is that the quality of education is deteriorating. Now, I know you've seen the same polls that I've seen, that not . . . this is not a racial issue any longer, because black parents object to forced bussing just as much as the white parents. And the hostilities in the schools and the frustration of the teacher in trying to cope with the situation, when the psychology of the classroom is just one of destruction and apathy and all the rest of it. Now, our schools are going to pot. Now, I think that my dear colleagues on the floor of the Senate are mistaking the mood of the people, and this may well affect their futures. I hope it will, because if they can't change their mind in the face of obvious fact, when they have been proved wrong, then they need to be eliminated from the Senate. If I'm wrong, they well may eliminate me. But I don't think I'm wrong.