Integration started decline of the quality of schools
In this excerpt, Davis shares her belief that integration has succeeded at West Charlotte: black and white students mingle comfortably, and students are exposed to a diverse environment, and essential aspect of a good education. Davis seems to say that if busing creates such diversity, it is a good thing. But she worries that integration signaled a decline in teaching standards, as many white teachers are not interested in nurturing black students.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Saundra Davis, May 12, 1998. Interview K-0278. 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: If we could get back for a minute to this period of integration. You said when you read the histories of integration in Charlotte, they said that the big change came when people in South Charlotte agreed to send their children to West Charlotte. That’s sort of the story. Tell me what you think about that.
SD: You know what? If I was living in South Charlotte I would want my children to come to West Charlotte, too. West Charlotte had been the number one black school ever since it’s been a West Charlotte. West Charlotte has been number one. I would be a fool if I lived in South Charlotte and wanted my child to go to Second Ward or go to another school, if they were going to be bussed to another black school. I would want mine to come to West Charlotte. I feel like we have the best of everything. I really do.
PG: It seems like when there were discussions, when people were talking about it, for a number of the blacks this was not seen as a good thing. They didn’t understand about West Charlotte. What was your perspective on that when they were talking about who was going to have to go to West Charlotte?
SD: Because they don’t understand black people as a whole. I think that’s the whole thing in a nut shell. They have one concept of black people. Everybody is not the same, and they had to come to realize that. I guess they felt like West Charlotte was rowdy and down class. But we’re number one. We’re the top. In other words, West Charlotte was just like Myers Park was. This is the black Myers Park over here. They just had the wrong concept about black people on the whole.
PG: Do you think that that changed after students came to West Charlotte?
SD: I think so. I feel like you saw more black and white kids mingle together on the whole. I’d go to ball games at other schools. I’m very observant. I’m going to always look to see what I can see, what’s right or what’s wrong. Even then at the games, it seems like you can tell West Charlotte’s crowd because they’re more like a family. You’ve got the blacks and whites mingling with each other. I notice when these kids go off to school and they come back with their black friends, black teachers, white teachers, whatever, they’re black and white. They’re always hugging each other. The affection is there. I guess maybe they do it at other schools, but I haven’t seen it done as much as at West Charlotte. I can be at a mall or somewhere, you can hear black and whites talking about West Charlotte. It’s always West Charlotte, and it’s a good school. I feel like the kids from South Charlotte came over here. They got the better kids up here, most of them, and the better black kids up there, too. Don’t fool yourself. They’ve got most of our good black kids up here, too. I don’t care what they say about bussing. You’ve got good black kids everywhere, but you check West Charlotte and see.
PG: Do you think that that helped, having the sort of upper level of students?
SD: I think so in the beginning. I think every child should have a chance. I feel like if they break it down and scatter people everywhere, the rich here in the poor section and the poor over here in the rich section, I think it would be better. Everybody needs to learn about everybody’s culture, to let everybody know that everybody is not alike, and we’ve got to help each other to live in this world. That’s the only thing that’s going to cure it. It’s easily said, but the people that are downtown they don’t try to keep doing this. They’ll do it for a little while. They’ll send a few here and a few there, but to really integrate it like it should be done, they need to clean that board up. They need the people downtown that really know what’s going on and that haven’t been sitting up somewhere drinking coffee, playing bridge, and talking to their friends all day. They don’t know what it’s like out here in this world. They need the people down there that really know what’s going on and that are not afraid to get in there and voice their opinion. Don’t worry about what Mr. John said or Mr. Brown said or anybody. Do what’s right for everybody.
PG: What do you think needs to be done, what kinds of things need to be done?
SD: For the first thing, as far as the bussing goes, there’s nothing wrong with the kids being bussed because the white children have been bussed all of their lives. We used to walk to school, and they were passing by us on the bus going to school. There’s nothing wrong with the bussing, but don’t bus the kids so far. They can do something that’s better than—.
END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE A
BEGINNING OF TAPE ONE, SIDE B
SD: To me that’s taking away from their learning, and I don’t think it’s right. They’re talking about all these SAT scores and all these scores. The teachers are griping and fighting because they’ve got to take these tests. Why not take them? If they don’t know the material, how are they going to teach it to the children? Then they’re going to flunk the child. That’s another thing. I cannot stand to see any teacher flunk a child. I don’t believe in Fs for the simple reason if a child is going to class every day, and if they are trying to do something—I shouldn’t say I don’t believe in Fs. If it’s a child that's in there doing nothing, causing trouble all the time, I can understand that. But a child that is going to class every day and putting forth some effort, no. To me that discourages a child to even want to go to that class. He’ll say, “Well, I’m going to get an F anyway, and I’m doing my best.” Then children start dropping out, cutting class. It’s terrible.
PG: Do you think more of that started happening after integration?
SD: On the whole, yes. Now we had teachers in the black schools that would give you an F, too. If that teacher knew that you really weren’t trying, if you just caused trouble. We didn’t have too many kids like that, but I really do. You may say that I am and people might say that I am, but I haven’t to my knowledge heard anybody say that I am prejudice. I have noticed in going from class to class, from my children on down to my grandchildren, a lot of these white teachers, now you may not believe me and there might be a lot of people that don’t believe me, but they’re not interested in our children.
PG: You still feel that?
SD: I do. I certainly do. It’s not all of them, mind you, because we’ve got some beautiful white teachers. Some of them do care about our children because they are good teachers. I feel like a good teacher doesn’t see any color. I don’t see any color. I guess I’m just color blind, because either you’re right or you’re wrong. I have seen it down through the years. If you go up there now and check my children’s records you will probably see where I’ve been to that school. Any time there was a problem, I’m going to see about my child. I don't care whether he’s right or he’s wrong, I’m going to see because I want to know what the problem is. If I go there and a teacher or a principal has really been wrong, hey, I know that’s on the record, too, because I don’t play. I don’t play with them, and I don’t play with my children. When it comes to learning, they’re up there to learn. They’re going to do what they’re supposed to do, and the faculty and everybody else, they’re going to do what they’re supposed to do by my children. I’m just that type parent. It is still in the schools, but you say you can’t put it all on the teachers because this is the way they were reared. But, hey, they’ve been to school. They’ve been to college. They’ve got degrees now. You’ve got to test what your brain is for. You’ve got to make a difference. My mother told me a lot of things when I was a child that I don’t agree with. You change it when you get grown when you can do better. They can’t hand me that.