Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dwelling on Lessons Learned from the Little Rock 9

In a correspondence in an earlier post, a respondent intimates the importance of not dwelling on those things that happened 40 or 50 years ago. While this individual expresses this in a way, which, at the least, can be accepted as positive, I'd like to suggest that nothing good can happen in this country by 'not dwelling' on this part of our country's history.

In a day in which there is considerable and, in varying quarters, serious, talk of the denial of citizenship to people born in this country; in the face of Islamaphobia, hate speech, rude and malevolent treatment of people who differ a contrived 'norm' of American culture, we need very much to remember, revisit and dwell on this period. Faces contorted with anger and fear and eerily familiar mean spirited language call for us to 'dwell' on it.

The story of 'The Little Rock 9', the nine children who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, is something to dwell on. Not just because of the extremism of the segregation. This is a story of the struggle of this country to achieve its highest and best ideals. It is a picture of what happens when people are 'angry' and 'afraid' and are trying to 'protect their way of life'. It is a story of courage and hope and family. It is also a story of how some people, white people, suffered, and in more cases than are usually told, transcended their upbringing in order to embody the humanity, compassion and civility that it takes to create a fair and just society.

There is also an interview with one of the Little Rock 9, nearly 45 years later. Melba Pattillo Beals, promoting her book, 'Warriors Don't Cry', gives insight into her own struggles at Central High. We learn the impact of that episode in her life and that era in our history on her, her friends and her community. And through her amazing lack of bitterness we find a superiority of spirit that most of us can only pray to receive.

The interview is about an hour, and you can see it here. But its worth taking the time to watch - and to dwell on its lessons...

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