Re-Post from The Root: Ole Miss Integrator: Nothing To Celebrate

10 Oct

When I first started to read this article from The Root, I thought, hmmm, is James Meredith being a crotchety, old man?

But then…as I read on, I realized he’s a very thoughtful man.  I tend to be a Pollyanna, and to not stop and think about the bigger implications of certain acts.  I don’t like to say “no” or to be thought of as impolite, and upon reading this wondered, oh, why doesn’t Mr. Meredith accept the invitation to be honored on the 50th anniversary of his being the first black student in history to attend the University of Mississippi?

In thinking about my own experience with school integration, tonight I dug up an old essay I wrote–still a work in progress–that speaks to my early questioning of why race relations was so important to me, and where I retraced my path in life to try and find out how it had become filled with far fewer black people over the years.  This is the same writing that I joked Michael Chabon was copying me on in my post, Author Michael Chabon Steals My Thoughts.  He too has the same yearnings and questions about the lack of black people in his life as an adult, which contrasts sharply with the very integrated community he grew up in.

Here is an excerpt from my essay, Stepping Into The Lines:
Was it in third grade when we began having black students bused to our elementary school?  I’ll never forget that day.The bus pulled up to the curb just beyond the asphalt playground.  All of the white kids stood back from the entrance to the playground watching as the small, black children got off the bus and entered their new school for the first time.  There was nothing but stillness; silence.  The new arrivals seemed to be frozen in one spot, standing quiet and vulnerable, on display before their new white counterparts.  I remember being scared about these new kids coming.  Thinking that meant there were going to be fights.  That the black kids were going to beat up the white kids.  Where did that come from?  My parents did not teach me that.  Their message was always to like and welcome and respect all kinds of people in your life.  It must have been other kids spreading rumors.  Things they heard from their parents.  I don’t remember if there were fights in school or not, maybe a few at first, but then it all seemed to work out fine, and before you knew it, me and my white girlfriends were chasing Vernard Jones and Leroy Wilkins around the playground, trying to kiss them…
Please read the article on James Meredith, and respond with your thoughts, memories of school integration, in the comments below.

Ole Miss Integrator: Nothing to Celebrate

By: Jenée Desmond-Harris | Posted: October 9, 2012 at 1:57 PM

Ole Miss Integrator: Nothing to Celebrate

James Meredith (via rainchurch/Flickr)

Last week, 50 years after James Meredith’s unwelcome enrollment as the University of Mississippi’s first black student (thousands of soldiers were deployed to protect him, leading to a riot that killed two and injured many more), the school commemorated the groundbreaking moment in its history. But Meredith, who ultimately graduated in 1963 with a degree in political science despite all of the legal and social resistance, saw nothing to celebrate. Gawker’s Cord Jefferson explains why:

Though he is alive and in good health, the now 79-year-old Meredith refused to attend the services, believing them to be misguided, according to reports.

“I ain’t never heard of the Germans celebrating the invasion of Normandy, or the bombing and destruction of Berlin. I ain’t never heard of the Spanish celebrating the destruction of the Armada.”

Asked to clarify, Meredith said: “Did you find anything 50 years ago that I should be celebrating?”

Besides wanting nothing to do with Ole Miss’s desegregation anniversary, Meredith has also said that a statue commemorating him on campus, erected in 2006, is “hideous” and should be destroyed. According to the Associated Press, he believes it “glosses over the magnitude of Mississippi’s resistance to his exercise of what should have been recognized as an obvious human right.”

Read more at Gawker.


SOURCE:, Ole Miss Integrator:  Nothing To Celebrate, by Jenee Desmond Harris, October 9, 2012

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