I promised at surprise ending for the summer vacation of 1970. It isn’t in my mother’s journal because I never found anything she’d written about the period after that vacation.
We arrived home at about 7 PM. A neighbor ran out of her house and across her yard to meet our car in the driveway. She was my age and excited in the way people are when delivering disastrous news. She asked if we knew what had happened while we were gone. The answer of course was ‘no’ because we didn’t have much opportunity to listen to the television and the radio in the car didn’t work well.
“Well,” she said. “They re-zoned our neighborhood. The kids in this neighborhood are being bussed to Worthing High School.”
My father said, “That’s not possible.”
She said, “They did it without warning. All the parents are angry. There have been protests down at the HISD administration building.”
Her tone was factual but I could tell by the look in her eye this was SOME news. Though I wasn’t catching on. I still had no idea why she seemed so concerned that we know this now. School was a few days away. We had had to go to Madison High School when we were in the seventh grade for one semester because the new Dick Dowling Junior High needed finishing. Going to High School at twelve years old was a little intimidating. At fifteen I felt fairly invincible. I said, “So what’s the big deal about Worthing?
She looked at me as if I had two noses. “It’s an all black school. There aren’t even enough white kids in this neighborhood to make a dent in the ratio.”
Turns out that she and her sisters had already applied and been accepted in the FFA (Future Farmers of America) program at Madison High (the school closest to us). In fact, at the time she was telling us the news that program had been maxed out. There were no other exemptions for getting out of being force-bussed to Worthing High School.
Yes, everything changed for me that year. It was my “inciting” moment.
And so here it is forty years later and from what I see – there is little or no change in our country with attitudes about color. This is ridiculous. When there are much more serious things taking place, freedoms at stake, we still blather about race.
I have something to say.
I’m writing a novel about my experience. But it won’t be about me.
Time enough has passed for me to be able to step back and tell a story. A story about race that I hope is as colorblind as going to that school made me.