The Ernest Green Story - Social Injustice Hurts
The year is 1957. The place is Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas. On the first day of school the major players should be high school students excited about the new school year, some graduating this year, some starting their high school career, and some ready to reunite with their friends. Instead of excitement and glee the atmosphere is filled with hate and fear. The angry white mob and the national guard take the focus off of children starting a new school year and places it on characters that do not belong in a high school setting.
What is going through the mind of Ernest Green in the above movie clip? Just the day before, he was an ordinary teenage boy trying to enjoy a game of basketball with his friends before the first day of school. Did he know that the next day, the first day of school, he would be greeted at the front door by national guards, hearing angry adults calling him out of his name, and being dared by one of his soon to be classmates to enter the building? In one day, overnight, his life changed in a way that was unimaginable along with the other eight black students standing with him that day.
This was the beginning of change, a change that was promoted by hate. I'm sure he was aware of the hate but was he aware of how strong this hate could be. In just trying to make life better for himself and others like him, just ordinary teenagers, did he understand the pain and life threatening experiences that he and his friends would suffer.
How could something as viable as getting a good education be so hurtful?
The Little Rock Nine 39 Years Later on Oprah
Listen to what these now older adults, the Little Rock Nine and some of the white students who participated in some way, have to say about how they felt then and how they feel now. This interview takes place on the Oprah Show in 1996 almost forty years later.
Tears are still falling these many years later which shares the depth of the feelings and hurts from that place and time in American History.
One of the white guest who was a verbal bully to the Little Rock Nine said that what he did was not done out of hate but out of ignorance because he did not understand their plight. Unfortunately this does not change how he made them feel. It is a good thing that he now recognizes what he caused them to feel and had the courage to aplogize in front of a national audience. I hope that the words and heart felt apoligies will propel a message to all people to think first and then act based upon your true thoughts.
Being different and then to be persecuted because of your difference HURTS beyond measure. Once the persecution takes place, it cannot be taken back. As people we can rise above the pain and the incident but it has made an everlasting scar.
A Good Movie Shares Real Facts
The movie "The Ernest Green Story," is a very good movie. It is hard to watch and stirs many emotions in all races. But by watching it you are able to develop more understanding of the climate of these times, the mindset of those who played roles in the civil rights movement no matter which side of the fence they were on and make human choices when confronted with people who are different. Race is one difference but there are many differences.
Desegregation would allow black and white students to go to school together in spite of their differences. These nine black students were the fore runners in the desegregation of Central High School. They met with strong opposition from the community and the governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, who was responsible for the National Guard preventing the nine from entering the school. President Eisenhower said that the actions of the mobs were disgraceful and federalized the National Guards and sent the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to escort the nine black students into the school on September 25,1957. The Airborne Division was with them the entire school year.
Eight of the nine finished the year at Central High and Ernest Green was the first black student to graduate from Central High School. Green said that he had a course in human relations first hand.
Alone and surrounded by the mob, Elizabeth Eckford later said, "I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the mob, someone who maybe would 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."
We Should Learn From Our History
Working with children, you see that children are aware of differences but the differences does not make them not want to play with those who are different. Mistreating others because of their color is a learned behavior. I believe that children should be allowed to watch movies which illustrate unjustified hate even though they are intense. People need to feel and somewhat experience how hate hurts. They need to recognize that hate targets people who do not deserve to be a target. People need to see both sides of the destructive force better known as racism. Just as some of those who targeted Ernest Green and others now recognize that something was very wrong with their behavior at that time, movies can play a role in people seeing and understanding history. Should history repeat itself? Sometimes yes and sometimes NO.