Ten years ago, federal district judge Leonard B. Sand ordered the city of Yonkers, New York, to integrate its public schools. Sand accused the city of 40 years of discrimination by concentrating public housing projects in southwest Yonkers. To comply with Sand’s ruling, many neighborhood schools closed their doors as busing became de rigueur. Parents fought Sand’s edict (at one point 11,000 students stayed home to protest) and eventually appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which refused to hear the ease.

With neighborhood schools closing and Judge Sand’s order to build low-income housing in more affluent areas, whites fled in the face of diminished control over their children’s education, falling property values, and crime. Whereas Yonkers’ public school system boasted 53 percent white enrollment in 1986, today the figure is a mere 30 percent.

Sand’s prescription was questioned from the beginning, and now is even questioned by members of the local NAACP, the organization that started the mess by jointly filing suit with the Justice Department in 1980. The national organization, of course, will hear none of this and has suspended chapter president Kenneth W. Jenkins for publicly stating that “busing had outlived its usefulness.”

This is not the first time the NAACP has run into opposition from within its own ranks on issues of school desegregation. Just last year in Cleveland, black parents resisted what the NAACP called “an old-fashioned” desegregation suit and the cross-district busing it promised. During the Board of Education’s hearings on the matter, the majority of witnesses (black and white) spoke in favor of neighborhood schools. A local radio station conducted a poll and found that 75 percent of the adult respondents expressed a preference for neighborhood schools no matter what their racial composition. The NAACP acknowledged it was “swimming against the tide.” but stuck to its guns despite the complaints of black parents that the civil rights lawyers were “holocausting” their children.

While members of the civil rights establishment predict dire consequences and a society that is “separate and unequal,” local leaders and citizens see things differently. Just last fall. Judge Richard Matsch ended Denver’s 21-year-old ordeal with forced busing and was praised by the city’s officials, most of whom are black. Mayor Wellington Webb, once a proponent of busing, agreed with Matsch’s decision, commenting that “the key issue today is to assure that kids receive the best education, regardless of what neighborhood they are in.” The Reverend Aaron Gray, president of Denver’s Board of Education, was more blunt in describing the change: “Pre-1954 was separate and unequal. The difference today is that you can step into an African-American school and see the same amount of resources provided to a majority Anglo school.” On the same note, just south of Yonkers, the former principal of P.S. 111 in the Bronx told the New York Times that publicly sponsored integration efforts should be abandoned for the development of “communities of color where social services, decent housing and real education are effectively delivered.” He went on to boast that P.S. 111 outperformed all 31 of the predominately white schools in the district and ranked 26th of 631 schools in New York City.

The message of local black leaders and citizens is clear: while they oppose state-mandated segregation, they refuse to support schemes of social engineering that the national civil rights establishment continues to shove down their throats.

Moreover, the NAACP’s influence continues to wane in the wake of charges of corruption and lavish expenditures on junkets, cars, and the like. With the dismissal of Ben Chavis in 1994 for a variety of reasons, not the least of which concerned NAACP funds earmarked as hush money for a woman alleging sexual discrimination, the organization is falling into disrepute—even among its staunchest supporters. As the old guard retires, they will be replaced with a new crop of leaders who are putting the health of their communities above quotas and formulas dreamed up by the social scientists who have already wreaked such havoc in the white and black communities.

It is heartening that lessons have been learned, but unfortunate that they were so costly, both in terms of dollars and human suffering. For example, in Yonkers, despite the opinions of the local NAACP, the city still spends $13 million on busing alone. Add to this the original desegregation plan ($37 million), and the result is one giant mistake at taxpayers’ expense. Factor in the destruction of communities as families fled to areas that still possessed a modicum of self-government, and one gets an idea of the price of social engineering.

Of course one cannot feel too sorry for Yonkers, since the city dug its own grave by readily accepting federal housing money and the strings attached—one string being the threat of lawsuits if public housing was not racially dispersed. Nevertheless, the waste of tax dollars and the breakup of communities are lamentable occurrences. Now that all are realizing the importance of stable communities and schools, whether they are predominately white or minority, perhaps the era of Brown will finally come to a close. Consequently, communities in Yonkers and throughout the nation must now grapple with the task of rebuilding. It is a difficult task, but one that should be undertaken with the same enthusiasm of Judge Sand and the federal judiciary’s earlier experiments.