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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Little Rock Central High School, 57 Years Later: A Weekend Observation

Little Rock Central High School National Park

   Last weekend I was honored to visit two good friends in Little Rock, Arkansas. We raised our kids together and have attended church together for decades, and we have shared viewpoints in a Small Group discussing Current Issues as they relate to Christianity.
   I was 9 when the Little Rock 9 had to be protected by soldiers (soldiers!) when they attempted to attend high school at Little Rock Central with white students. It was a shock to me and my family, and we watched it unfold on our black and white TV set. It was easy to condemn the whites who cursed at, spat on and threatened nine black children just because they were black. I have never understood why someone could be condemned by a circumstance over which they have no control. I have stood my ground when a beloved neighbor said, "Us whites have to stick together." My response, "I'm sorry you feel that way."
   So how is Little Rock School System faring today? Having spent only one weekend there in my entire life, I can't pretend to know that much about it. There has been progress. Blacks are free to buy housing wherever they wish, if they have the money. Black children didn't stare at us when we drove through their neighborhood. Black adults on their porches didn't notice us.
   There is a but. Blacks have adequate housing, but pay white landlords instead of owning. Whites now pay for elite private schools and blacks are educated in an inferior, poorly funded public system. Much of that same trend exists in many cities, including my home town, Chicago. Why is it that my generation - the Hippies and the love children who were going to make the world a better place - have been unable to mitigate circumstances in the slums? Where are the dreamers and social activists that changed women's rights, supported labor unions and fought for civil rights? I hope Sojourners Magazine can locate this generation's social justice leaders on June 18-21 at Georgetown University. It's time for all of us that have been blessed with adequate income stand up for those who have not. I always admired my parents, who were aware of what was going on in the world, even as their hair grayed. Paying attention is the least we can do.

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