(This is my yearbook photo from 9th grade)
Berkeley Unified was one of the first districts in the country to integrate “by choice”. That sounds terrific — they didn’t need a court to order them to do, but as I’ve mentioned in my post: Reality Check https://mixedgirlsurvivalschool.com/reality-check/ Even though the buses brought the Black children to my Berkeley Hills (the White part of town) elementary school, self-segregation ruled all interactions…it’s what the kids chose. As I mentioned, the next school in the district I attended, called Equal One https://mixedgirlsurvivalschool.com/cultural-continuity-a-great-concept-hard-to-execute/,was intentionally re-segregated by design in order to match teacher/student culture. That did not go well, for me. I ended up begging to spend my 6th grade year in the Asian program, which I did…and it was actually the least racial pressure I ever felt, in fact hanging with that “nerd-crew” got me through junior high. But by the time I arrived at Berkeley High, I wanted to be cool. Never good. The Berkeley High campus was just as segregated as my first school playground. However since I was raised in The Hills, I naturally gravitated to my neighbors: the Fogerty boys, Saul Zaentz’s son, Tim Hutton, etc., who hung out next to the Community Theater — with my white-girl friends — sporting Farrah Fawcett “wings”, and other perfect 70s pop-culture looks — who nabbed boy-friends right away. With my giant Afro, I was the awkward third wheel. The sad part is that since I regularly walked by the Black part of the campus to get to the office and the gym, I was noticed by the popular males there. At the time, almost all of the school government, sports teams (except tennis and crew), and the Home Coming Royalty were dominated by the Black students. And I could have joined it. Being Mixed allowed that. But my previous negative experiences prevented me. As a result high school was dismal, and I ended up testing out when I was sixteen years old.
Seeing as my teen years were still on the fuzzy edge of the Civil Rights era, it never crossed my mind that forty years later teens would face the same race issues. Ah well…this 2017 article articulates the amazing lack of progress pretty clearly:
A structure of division: Berkeley High School attempts to tackle segregation on campus, BY SYDNEY FIX
As one of the few Black students in her classes as a freshman at Berkeley High School, Kyla Stewart would often hesitate to ask or answer questions, fearing classmates had already formed judgments about her.
“I definitely felt intimidated, like I don’t want them to think that I’m stupid or something just because I answer a question wrong and I’m Black,” Stewart said. “You don’t want them to think badly about you.”
Stewart began her first year at Berkeley High in the Academic Choice program, one of the school’s five learning communities — programs within Berkeley High that provide their own focus and curriculum.
Stewart left the predominantly white Academic Choice program at the conclusion of her freshman year for the Academy of Medicine and Public Service, or AMPS, one of the smaller learning communities within Berkeley High, with a majority population consisting of students of color.
It was her “choice” to self-segregate, but if that was the only place she felt comfortable how much of a free choice was it?