Friday, September 25, 2009

Christians, we must be passionate about racial reconciliation

[Gleaned from online sources] On September 25, 1957 nine black students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School and set off a national crisis. On May 17, 1954 the Supreme Court issued its decision on the now famous Brown vs Board of Education. The decision declared all laws establishing segregated school to be unconstitutional. But in the deep South change came slow. Waiting over a year, the Superintendent of Little Rock Central High School submitted a plan to the school board to slowly integrate black students (i.e. only admit a few at a time), which was unanimously accepted.

However, the segregationists were up in arms (literally). Governor Orval Faubus, betraying his own racism, supported the segregationists and deployed the Arkansas National Guard to support the segregationists as they blocked the nine black students from entering the school. Regarding the accompanying crowd, one of the nine black students, Elizabeth Eckford, recalled "they moved closer and closer". "Somebody started yelling, 'Lynch her! Lynch her!' I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the crowd — someone who maybe could help. I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me."

Under immense pressure from Washington D.C., the governor eventually backed down and withdrew the National Guard. The Little Rock Police Department took their place and quietly ushered the nine students into the school. Hundreds of protesters, mostly parents of the white students attending Central High, remained entrenched in front of the school. When the protesters learned that the nine black students were inside, they began confronting the outnumbered line of policemen. When white residents began to riot, the nine students were quickly (and wisely) escorted out of the school.

To solve this growing crisis President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army. He even federalized the 10,000 member Arkansas National Guard, taking it out of the hands of Governor Faubus.

By the end of September 1957, the nine were admitted to Little Rock Central High under the protection of the U.S. Army, but they were still subjected to a year of physical and verbal abuse (spitting on them, calling them names) by many of the white students. One of the students had acid thrown into her eyes. The others were verbally confronted and physically tormented. One of the students, Minnijean Brown, while being taunted by a group of white, male students in the school cafeteria during lunch, dumped a bowl of chili onto the boys. She was suspended for six days but the white boys received no punishment. Two months later, after another white-initiated confrontation, she was expelled.

Christians, will you continue to take a stand against the heinous sin of racism? Perhaps the worst racism in this situation was not the state-sponsored hatred of the Governor but the subtle and almost unprovable hatred the nine students experienced in the cafteria, classrooms, and school hallways. The racism of a tyrant is no small thing, but racism in the hearts of the average person is far worse still. At least tyrants can be overthrown.
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1 comment:

  1. This is a horrible chapter of the history of the United States. Thankfully, there has been massive improvement in race relations so that racism is viewed by most people as immoral.

    On the other hand, this story also shows the fortitude, faith, and courage of black Americans in the face of severe persecution. If only the current leadership (Jackson, Sharpton, et al) of black Americans, recognized and encouraged this fortitude, faith, and courage; rather than, constantly blaming whites for getting them down.

    I wish that people like Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Clarence Thomas would be looked up to as the role models for blacks. Even though I disagree with them in many areas, Barak Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Cosby would be good choices as role models. In fact, they could be role models for everyone regardless of the color of their skin.