A bit more than 50 years ago the governor of Arkansas called out his national guard to prevent nine black students from attending Central High in Little Rock. Shortly thereafter, President Dwight Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne to ensure that they could attend.
In between the world bore witness to the ugliest of emotions: Raw, insensate hatred.
Look at the young white woman’s face, transfigured by rage. Made almost inhuman. See young Elizabeth Eckford walk to school protected only by her dignity, surrounded by those who hate her. Not because of what she had done, or thought. But because of who she was. Because of the color of the skin she was born into. Ask yourself if you have ever in your entire life done anything so brave, so noteworthy.
I have not. And she was not quite 18.
I wondered today, pondering this image: How would it be to be Hazel Massery and forever frozen in time as the very avatar, the incarnation of beastly, unreflective race hatred. Until I discovered that Ms. Eckford, who went on to earn a law degree, extended her umbrella of grace so far as to forgive her ancient tormentor.
They became friends.
This too, for better or worse: Only in America.