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Federal District Judge Robert D. Potter has ordered the school system of Charlotte-Mecklenberg, N.C., to end busing to remedy the damage of generations of Jim Crow schools, and to stop assigning pupils on the basis of race. And therein lies several stories illustrating the current sad state of race relations in these United States.

First, it tells us how much the mindset of the judiciary has changed since the Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954 outlawing racial segregation in public schools, and since Federal Judge James McMillan of Charlotte ruled in 1969 that that city had intentionally operated a segregated school system and was required to adopt busing to redress its damages.

Potter was a private-citizen demonstrator against busing in 1969, and he now gets the last laugh of outlawing it. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund says it will appeal his ruling, but the federal appeals courts and the U.S. Supreme Court are now overloaded with appointees of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, so the likelihood of an appeal succeeding is very slim.

Second, the Potter ruling shows the extent to which some jurists will go to pretend that this is now a colorblind society. Potter holds that busing is no longer needed, because the Charlotte-Mecklenberg district has eliminated "all vestiges of past discrimination."

Anyone looking at West Charlotte High School, which was all-black in the 1960s and is still about 75 percent black, will know that that claim is absurd. In fact, school officials testified before Potter that they will need busing and the use of race in school assignments for another five years, because the school system has not done all it could do to eliminate disparities in the facilities available at black neighborhood schools as compared with white ones.

Yet, this case shows the sad extent to which even educated blacks have given up the fight and surrendered to the idea of "separate but equal." Dr. Vernon Bell, the principal of West Charlotte High, told the New York Times: "The days of Jim Crow and apartheid are gone. I don't think this judge's decision is going to have a big effect -- as long as we have equal facilities at all of our schools."

The history of America shows that as long as children are separated by social and economic class, or on the basis of race, the facilities are never equal. That is why the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall insisted, "Justice is when everybody can get the same thing at the same time at the same place."

A white man whose children attend West Charlotte High happily told the New York Times that many white parents in Charlotte want to keep their children in schools closer to home and away from inner-city children. That hardly sounds like a "colorblind" society.

Yet it is clear that whenever and wherever whites sue over school busing, college admissions, employment policies or contract-giving that involve any considerations of race, some judge will say that factoring race in is taboo in this "colorblind" country. Thus seven white families in Charlotte could claim that "forced busing" discriminated against them and with a lawsuit turn the whole educational system upside down.

The dismaying truth is that in this society, we can bus perhaps 20 million children to school daily without challenge; but if we use buses to make amends for generations of egregious racial discrimination, any white complainer can make a federal case of it.

This is a galling, hypocritical way for the Caucasian majority to lock in for perpetuity all the advantages gained during generations of racist oppressions.

We can all be sure that Potter's last laugh will echo across the land, emboldening the selfish and the bigoted in many more cities to attack every program designed to erase the damage done by generations of Jim Crow and other forms of educational discrimination and neglect. What a shameful turn of events!

North America Syndicate

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