Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Court-ordered desegregation opened a virtually all-white school to blacks. Fear, anger and resentment followed.

Sandy Banks:

The graduates of Inglewood High's Class of 1975 assembled on the football field and applauded Scott Mosko as he took the podium. "Congratulations," the valedictorian said, "for surviving the utter hell we've been through at Inglewood High."

The school's "forced integration" had failed, he continued. The proof was right before their eyes: Two groups of graduates — one black, one white — sitting on separate sides of the field.

"The theme of my speech was: Look at how well this idea of integration has worked," Mosko recalled. "You can force us all to go to the same school and sit in class together, but when you give us a choice, the students choose individually to sit with their own racial kind."

They were Inglewood High's second integrated graduating class, a product of the district's court-ordered desegregation in 1970 that delivered hundreds of black students to a campus that had been virtually all white for half a century.

The transition was abrupt and rocky. Some students rolled through their four years at Inglewood High unscathed. But for others, the resulting racial tumult stoked prejudices, fueled fears and brewed resentment that has lingered for 30 years.

This summer, a round of class reunions brought their adolescent struggles back into focus. Even now, graduates look back through a haze colored by race, economics and culture.

"When you talk to people from my class, they'll say high school was one of the worst times of their lives," said Norm Drexel, class of 1975. "What's stayed with me, with many of us, is anger, that I didn't enjoy high school."

Drexel is a product of old Inglewood, which for generations was proudly, and stubbornly, white. His father grew up in Inglewood, and his grandparents worked for the family of the city's founder, Daniel Freeman.

In 1960, the census counted only 29 "Negroes" among Inglewood's 63,390 residents. Not a single black child attended the city's schools. Real estate agents refused to show homes to blacks. A rumored curfew kept blacks off the streets at night.

The Watts riots in 1965 spurred white residents to flee and opened the city's doors to minorities. By 1970, Inglewood had more than 10,000 blacks among its 90,000 citizens.

Virtually overnight, Drexel recalled, his neighborhood became "an area where nobody wanted to be out front anymore. And when we did, there were always fights."

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At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"racial tumult"

What is, or was, that?!

Actually, it's repeated encounters with specific behaviors that most often result in the 'stoking' or creation of prejudices and/or stereotypes, which therefore often enough are altogether reasonable.


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