by Max Brantley
John Brummett says so, in criticizing a Democrat-Gazette editorial cartoon that likened School Superintendent Roy Brooks dismissal (with $500,000 traveling money) to Elizabeth Eckford's lonely walk throw a shrieking crowd in 1957. In place of a hateful fellow student, Brooks is shouted at in the cartoon by School Board President Katherine Mitchell. It was the only latest example of the D-G editorial page appropriating the names and works of real heroes to advance its political agenda in the Little Rock school district. Brummett gets it.
Let us consider this implied equivalence: Eckford was an adolescent, a victim of racial bigotry and discrimination, surrounded by crowds of angry whites as she dared to do what a federal court had historically granted her the human and civil right to do. Brooks is having a hard time of it, too. He is having his contract bought out for about a half-million dollars. That's because four of the seven school board members, black like the superintendent, believe he has defied supervision from the elected board to run the schools at the behest of certain businessmen downtown.
One of those businessmen is the publisher of the paper running this cartoon. It's a paper long distinguishing itself by rewriting the history of 1957 to say Orval Faubus called out the National Guard to keep the peace, rather than, as is factual and disgraceful, defy the law of the land and stand in the way of this brave young Elizabeth Eckford.
I'm one who thinks Brooks has been effective in some respects. I'm one who wishes the superintendent could remain in the job under some kind of probation by which he'd be required to work with the people bequeathed him by the democratic process. I'm one who thinks Mitchell has not behaved well, even seeking outrageously to intimidate Brooks' deputies out of standing by him.
I'm one who acknowledges certain potential racial implications in this debacle, if, that is, some white people do as they threaten and pull their kids out because they trust only Brooks.
What I'm not is one who can keep his breath that anyone would dare to liken the fate of a terminated contemporary school superintendent to what beset Eckford and those other eight black kids in 1957.