The genesis of this project was really when I interviewed Riaz Ahmed, a Bradfordian originating from Kashmir, who confided having been ‘bussed out’ to an overwhelmingly white school as a kid in the mid-1960s. I had never heard of such a thing as ‘bussing’ in England. It came as something of a shock since at that time (2008) I had a hazy notion that bussing was really an American thing.
Riaz’s interview is partly reproduced in my book De l’invisibilité à l’islamophobie (Paris : Presses de Sciences-Po, 2011) and like many Asians Riaz laments the double standards in bussing, besides the obvious fact that racism in white schools was very rife on the playgrounds, almost a way of life :
“It was a failure primarily because it was a one-way traffic, not a two-way traffic, I remember it was a couple of lads like me going to white schools, there were ten or twelve of us, and I remember we got bullied it was terrible, and these are your formative years, you see, very important for your mental development […] There should be bussing, but it has to be a two-way traffic, otherwise it will fail” (Riaz Ahmed, interview, 15. 05. 2008, quoted in Olivier Esteves, De l’invisibilité à l’islamophobie, les musulmans britanniques, 1945-2010, Paris : Presses de Sciences-Po, 2011, p. 83).
Almost straight away I wanted to discover more, and it was then that I realized there had never been a book written on this one issue (as opposed to the number of books on American bussing), that I became aware there was really book material in this. So here we are, a few years later and slightly the wiser on a complex, controversial question.