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March 30, 2010

Will Images of Hate Forever Be Among Us?

1071936_hate1 I have an image in my head. An image from 1957. I can't shake it. I was only one year old in 1957, so I am not sure when I first saw the photo. But it is an image that is ingrained in my memory. You know the picture. It is the photograph of Elizabeth Eckford, of the Little Rock Nine, who was the one of the first African-Americans to attend Little Rock Central High School. The one where 15-year-old Elizabeth is walking by herself, looking straight ahead, grasping her notebook, while an angry white mob follows her, one young woman yelling from behind.

I have always wondered what the woman (Hazel Bryan Massery) with the look of hate and disgust felt about her image forever a part of history. An image considered one of the 100 photographs that changed the world. When did Massery realize that she had made a mistake? That the fear she felt that September morning was unfounded? That life as she knew it, as a high school student, was not in danger because the public school system was going to be integrated. At what point did she realize she had become “a poster child for the hate generation” as she later acknowledged.

The images this week of Americans spewing hate because they disagree with the health care bill brought to mind the photographs of hate during the civil rights movement. I wonder, will there be a day of reckoning for those misguided souls? People yelling racial and homophobic slurs at members of the U.S. Congress? People holding signs depicting our president as Hitler.  Or are the images today so massive in numbers that those yelling hate will not stand out like Hazel Massery?

I so desperately want to believe that as a nation we have come far. As I watch children, of varied races, playing at my daughter's elementary, I want to believe that her generation will be truly color-blind. But the rhetoric and images during the last year, and particularly last week, makes me wonder if the true reality is, as the old saying goes, “history just keeps repeating itself”. Only this time around no one is wearing white robes.

This is an original 50-something moms blog post. Debbie also blogs at Diaries of an Older Mom

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