By Alan Bean
I have been inspired by the story about how Elizabeth Eckford (the black woman walking stoically into Little Rock’s Central High School in 1959) and Hazel Bryan (the white woman in the rear screaming, “Go home to Africa, nigger!”) had bridged the racial divide and become best friends.
Not surprisingly, it isn’t that simple.
Racial reconciliation comes hard. Everybody needs to feel good about their people, their heritage, their roots. At least Sir Walter Scott thought so:
Breathes there there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no minstrel raptures swell . . .
African Americans and American whites, particularly in the South, have a hard time feeling good about their ethnic heritage. Few Black Americans chose to come to this country. In most cases, their ancestors were hunted down like dogs, manacled, separated from family, culture and religion, stowed into the hulls of slave ships, transported across the Atlantic ocean, and put to work under the lash beneath a blazing son. The Emancipation Proclamation hardly improved their lot. In its own strange way, Jim Crow was every bit as degrading as slavery. (more…)