Tuesday, September 25, 2007

And Why the Apathetic Masses are Just as Bad as Hate Speech/Acts

As I was perusing today's news for article ideas, I came across a story regarding the "Little Rock Nine."

This story is a "Where is She Now" commentary on Elizabeth Eckford, one of the nine black students who was supposed to attend Central High after the desegregation laws nearly 50 years ago (next month). The picture is infamous in our nation's history: a young black woman in a white dress, clutching her school books amidst a sea of white kids shouting angrily at her or smirking to their friends. Or just staring and doing nothing.

It has been deemed "the long, lonely walk" by some journalists. While the rest of the Little Rock Nine had planned to integrate the school as a group, Eckford's family had no phone. Thus, she was left to attempt to enter the school alone.

The picture itself evokes powerful emotions for me, I certainly can not even imagine what it must evoke in a black person.

While some students who attended Central High have claimed that not everyone was like this. Or the majority wasn't so hateful towards the black students "yet the world focused on 'problem students—25 maybe, a minuscule percentage,'" the pictures in the news depict more.

For, I know well the tendency of mass crowds in situations like this to be "I just don't want to get involved." Yet, they sit idly by on the sidelines watching innocent Others get hurt. This is otherwise known as the "bystander effect." (ie- the more bystanders there are, the less likely they are to take any personal responsibility for stopping the injustice). I don't know about other people in this country, but I learned in 5th grace that this was wrong.

The black students involved in the Little Rock Nine certainly don't remember "25 maybe" students spouting their hate. What they remember are the hundreds more white kids who simply stood by and said nothing.

"The tone was set by a couple of hundred students engaged in this reign of terror," says Ernest Green, one of the Nine and an executive with Lehman Brothers. "The silence was deafening. We would have appreciated some of them speaking out when all of this harassment was going on."

While we certainly shouldn't dwell on the past when so much progress has been made with racial inequities in the U.S., I also feel that we (white people) also find them too easy to forget. For, if we don't remember things like this, that happened only 50 years ago, then we are doomed to repeat ourselves (Jena 6).

Let's give Elizabeth Eckford a reason to believe her struggle is/was not in vain.


John said...

Thank you, Jane. Well said.

Jane Know said...

You're welcome. Thanks for reading.

Brita said...

The image makes you shudder. The hatred in those people's faces and eyes, or the deer in headlights of those as you put it, innocently standing by, waiting for the moment and wafts of hatred to pass. Still Elizabeth soldiers on to class, towards integration and the promise of a better tomorrow. But how far have we really come?

Jane Know said...

Yes, I hate that people so often "just don't want to get involved" in matters of injustice.

"But how far have we really come?"

As I said before, I think that many white people find it too easy to forget that things like this happened. They just don't want to feel guilty for "crimes we didn't commit." I've been guilty of it myself. But there is no way to rationalize why higher percentages of black people still live in housing projects, go to jail more, are arrested more, graduate high school less, etc. Not to mention other, far less obvious, remnants of history/discriminations.

I don't think there are any *easy* solutions to this, but recognizing the reality of our history and all its effects is a step in the right direction.

Rachel said...

DON'T. GET. ME. STARTED. How far have we come? The American National government, as it currently exists DOESN'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE...or Latinos, or Asians, or Native Americans, or gay people, or women, or poor people (who just so happen to be black, Latino, Native American, and women...since the government doesn't to shit to offer these groups social justice and equality). Soooo, who does that leave us??? WHITE, UPPER-CLASS, HETERO-SEXUAL, MEN. They make all of the laws for us. How far have we come??? Now, you just can't or shouldn't say it OUTLOUD.

Jane Know said...

yes, I also believe that a select few have too much power over the rest of the population. like the "war on drugs," that is more of a "war on poor, black people" in its arbitrary selection of punishments for different illegal drugs.