Elizabeth Eckford’s America

I’m as overjoyed as most other people about the new President-Elect of the United States, but won’t do the obligatory gushing blog post for fear of descending into platitude. I do, however, want to share this Vanity Fair article I read over a year ago, and which I searched out and reread the day Obama won the elections, because it had stayed with me all that time.

The article isn’t about Obama but Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine and subject of the famous photo you’ve probably seen of her attempt to enter her newly desegregated high school while behind her, a white girl’s face explodes in hatred. The article recounts that fateful day, Elizabeth’s harrowing high school years of constant bullying and total isolation, and how she continued to struggle with these experiences well into her adult life. Most fascinatingly, it tells of the reconciliation, friendship even, that occurred forty years later between Elizabeth and the angry white girl in the photograph, Hazel Bryan.

I’ll leave you to appreciate Through A Lens, Darkly in its full length. It paints a complex picture I’d rather not reduce to a summarizing, rose-tinted doodle, but I think it’s a fitting complement to one of the last few lines in Obama’s wonderful victory speech, where he was speaking about 106-year-old Ann Nixon Cooper and what she’d seen in her life: “And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.”


  1. Mneh, I’m a bit suspicious of Obama. The way the media are cheerleading him so universally isn’t good. I think wacko conspiracy theory candidate Ron Paul may be onto something solid this time:

    The whole ‘I couldn’t have done it without out you, your the real winners’ fawning in the victory speech a bit maudlin. The Onion said it best as always: http://www.theonion.com/content/news/nation_finally_shitty_enough_to

  2. +1 for ron paul. heh

    i supported obama during the course of the election too because i like what he represents. but whether he’s the real deal still remains to be seen.

    the first thing that i read about him post-election was his plan to bail out general motors. i mean, does the american public really need to have their dollars spent on yet another corporate bailout? and just right after the housing bailout and the banking bailout… wasn’t it the irresponsible actions of these corporate entities that resulted in the financial crisis in the first place?

  3. I agree with the last two posters. It’s definitely good form to praise the man if he deserves it, right up to the point when he gets elected. After he’s elected, he should be criticised as regularly and, probably, as harshly as possible, cause he’s in charge now. And we should all expect a Republican in 8 years time after Obama has cocked things up for two terms – not because he’s doing a bad job but because once you’re in, you’re judged on your failures, not your successes.

    Am I a cynic?

  4. Well this post was intended to be waaaaaaaay more about the fantastic Elizabeth Eckford article I wanted to share than about Obama, but I guess he remains the hot topic.

    It’s easy from outside America to reach the conclusion that the media is universally biased in Obama’s favour, but don’t forget that inside America Fox News airs really shocking stuff slanted the other way (I don’t think I fully grasped how bad it is until I saw clips), and it’s a major network. Also, what’s interesting is that if you read Newsweek’s fascinating behind-the-scenes series tracking both candidates’ campaigns, Obama hardly courted the trail reporters the way I’d originally expected he’d have had to in order to get so popular with them. He comes across as pretty detached, not much of a schmoozer. But of course, he still makes for more glamorous news than McCain so there’s that in play too.

    James, I didn’t find the “I couldn’t have done it without you” part of the victory speech fawning, in the context of the unprecedented level of grassroots and volunteer involvement in his campaign. If he hadn’t acknowledged this, wouldn’t he have come across as ungrateful? I already read and loved the Onion article, but don’t see how it “says it best” with regards to the point you’re trying to make.

    t, Matt, fair points which I might make myself if I could be bothered to sit down and write a longer Obama post which captures my views on him with more detail and nuance. (This isn’t meant to stop any Obama discussion here, just to point out that simply because this particular post was not cynical or critical of him, it doesn’t mean that I’m not.)

  5. That comment didn’t make a whole lot of sense with all my grammatical errors. It’s just there’s a somewhat annoying self-congradulatory tone in everything coming out of America at the moment, which the Onion article was referencing. Obama had endorsement from 80% of the media outlets two months before the election. He didn’t have to run a dirty campaign because the media were throwing all the mud at McCain and Palin for him. He’s absolutely immune from any criticism. Bush was in the same situation after 9/11 because it was a ‘crisis’ and he could carry on all kinds of dodgy shit because he was free from scrutiny. Obama has the financial crisis to use as justification for anything he does now, and I’d hope people treat everything he does with a high level of scrutiny so he doesn’t try and shady business.

    I wasn’t really directing any of this at you Michelle, I just enjoy getting up on my soap box and spreading my poorly researched cynicism. :D

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