I added a new podcast to my rotation this week called American History Tellers. The show hooked me quickly with its focus on connecting our country’s past and our country’s present. The current season of the podcast is on The Cold War and during one of the episodes, there is a mention of President Eisenhower’s decision to send in federal troops to help desegregate Little Rock Central High School in 1957, three years after the passing of Brown v. Board of Education and three years after the school board had agreed to desegregate voluntarily.
The part of this that resonates most for me is the words of President Eisenhower in his speech to the nation before sending in the 101st Airborne to ensure that the law was followed and black students were allowed to attend Little Rock Central High School. Here’s a bit of the speech:
“In the South, as elsewhere, citizens are keenly aware of the tremendous disservice that has been done to the people of Arkansas in the eyes of the nation, and that has been done to the nation in the eyes of the world…Our enemies are gloating over this incident and using it everywhere to misrepresent our whole nation. We are portrayed as a violator of those standards of conduct which the peoples of the world united to proclaim in the Charter of the United Nations. There, they affirmed “faith in fundamental human rights” and “in the dignity and worth of the human person” and they did so “without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”
Eisenhower ends with what he feels the outcome will be of his decision:
“…a blot upon the fair name and high honor of our nation in the world will be removed. Thus will be restored the image of America and of all its parts as one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
If you are interested in watching the entire speech by President Eisenhower from September 24, 1957, you can check it out here.
It’s interesting that the focus of the conclusion is more about “restoring an image” than calling for an end to the dehumanization of black citizens and the need for really working to put in place equitable structures. Maybe, like the Speaker of the House in Tennessee, the President just wanted a sense of decorum and was more upset that the fine people of Little Rock, Arkansas had caused a scene. Because the reality is that ignoring the mandate to segregate schools was much more the rule, rather than the exception.
As Carol Anderson points out in her chapter of White Rage titled Burning Brown to the Ground, there was a variety of tactics used to avoid the desegregation of schools. Places like Prince Edward County actually closed schools for four years (1959-1964) rather than comply with Brown. In Louisiana, the governor empowered state police to arrest any federal judge or U.S. marshal who tried to implement Brown. The truth of the matter was noted by Senator James O. Eastland of Mississippi who stated, “We will protect and maintain White Supremacy throughout eternity.” Mississippi Governor Fielding Wright added, “regardless of the consequences.”
Other things I am reading/watching/listening to:
The Tennessee GOP has a problem with democracy – The Boston Globe – One eye-popping excerpt from this article about the state that expelled two black members from its House of Representatives: “Recently it came to light that Tennessee had built up $732 million in funds for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which it largely refused to spend. Just this past fall, over three years since the discovery of the huge cash reserves, there was still some $632.9 million left unspent.”
Millions of Americans are losing access to maternal care. Here’s what can be done – A new term I learned this week is maternal healthcare desert. This article from NPR details a report that came out this past fall from the March of Dimes that highlighted “36% of counties nationwide — largely in the Midwest and South — constitute “maternity care deserts,” meaning they have no obstetric hospitals or birth centers and no obstetric providers.” Also, “One in 4 Native American babies, and 1 in 6 Black babies, were born in areas with limited or no access to maternity care services.”
WTF does race have to do with taxes? : Code Switch : NPR – From the show website: In this episode, we’re looking at the racial landmines in our tax code with Dorothy A. Brown, a tax expert and author of The Whiteness Of Wealth: How The Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans And How To Fix It. The show also highlights a study out of Stanford that highlights the fact that the IRS audits black taxpayers at higher rates than white taxpayers.
Lexington’s proposed zoning changes set the bar – This editorial from the Boston Globe highlights the vote last week in Lexington that opened the door for more affordable housing to be built in the community. Here’s an excerpt: “According to the Department of Housing and Community Development’s compliance guidelines, Lexington should rezone at least 50 acres in order to accommodate a minimum capacity of 1,231 multifamily housing units. What’s proposed before the Town Meeting subjects a total of 227 acres, dispersed throughout the town, to rezoning. For those who worry that may bring too much change to too many parts of town, the reality is that 227 acres only amount to 2 percent of Lexington’s total land area, as the town’s planners pointed out.” It will be interesting to see what other communities do to comply by the end of 2024 with this new state mandate for communities served by rapid transit.