"Fear of the unknown" during school integration
Love was in only third grade when busing heralded the integration process, but he remembers the conversations that took place in the black community at that time. He remembers the "fear of the unknown," wondering about the groups that humans split one another into and how they react to one another. Love feels fortunate for his insulating independent streak, but remembers a great deal of racial anxiety at the time.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with John Love, February 17, 1999. Interview K-0172. 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
PG: You mentioned that there was this time when you were in junior high school when this early bussing began.
JL: There was some kind of exchange thing that happened at West Charlotte with students from different parts of the country, but, actually, when bussing began, the first year of bussing, I was in the third grade.
PG: What did your uncle talk about? You mentioned he was there at West Charlotte at the time. Did he talk to you at all about what was going on there?
JL: He talked to me about it, but the entire community was talking about it, too. I mean having very young parents and then my uncle was my father’s youngest brother so he was young, too. So in a lot of ways a lot of his friends were my friends, and so everybody talked about it, and everybody talked about just what was happening, and what was changing, and dealing with the white people, and dealing with the white people in ways that were very different. And then, I think it’s one thing to be bussed out of your neighborhood into a community and you deal with the integration process in that way, which is what happened for me in the third grade. I was on the west side and then I went to Rama Road. But it’s another thing, it’s a very interesting thing to actually still go to school in your neighborhood which pretty much a homoginized African American neighborhood and the integration sort of comes to you. So that was an interesting kind of phenomenon, too, as opposed to going away, because during bussing for the people that lived in the neighborhood of West Charlotte and that also went to West Charlotte, they didn’t have to do the whole long bus ride thing.
PG: Well, what was it like when you were in third grade when you were younger and you got bussed out to these other schools? What was that like for you?
JL: When I was in the second grade, and we heard that the integration things was going to happen and everything, we were upset because we were sort of confused, and we didn’t really know what that meant, and you know that you may go to school with your friends. You may not go to school with your friends. Different people may go to different schools. And so that whole thing. Just kind of the fear of the unknown. But once it happened, for me, I mean I’m a pretty adventurous spirit, and I would say that I’m somewhat of a survivor, so my whole thing was about just kind of sitting back and looking at the situation and then figuring out what was it, how did I fit in it, and how could I survive in it. And it brought up some really, really interesting issues. Issues of being separated into groups, academic groups like the fast reading group or the intermediate reading group, and the slow reading group, and invariably at that time say there were only three black children in the highest, quickest, fastest reading group, and I was one of them. So then you begin to deal with these issues of separation, perceived or implied elitism, tokenism, all that kind of stuff, and kind of feeling displaced. Kind of feeling like my black friends, or the other black people were, some were upset, some were jealous, some thought I was trying to be white. And then the white people, some going, “Well, who is he? What is he doing in here?” that whole kind of thing. I feel really fortunate because I’ve always been pretty independent, psychologically independent, emotionally independent, pretty independent, and it served me well to be that way in terms of acknowledging feelings of loneliness, but also acknowledging that one has to endure and move on. And I was always pretty achievement oriented, too, so that helped.
PG: That was something you could focus on.
JL: Yes. Very much so.