by Max Brantley
We're over the hump. Final thoughts:
* THEY ALSO GO TO SCHOOL IN FAYETTEVILLE: This link will show you the 62 Arkansas high school kids nominated to be presidential scholars. A full dozen of them come from Fayetteville High School. Central High in Little Rock has six.
* CLICK IT OR .... Got a news release today from the National Park Service about a one-car wreck on West Mountain Drive in Hot Springs. The driver lost control, hit a tree and went down a 75-foot embankment. The car rolled over once. The driver was wearing a seatbelt and a four-year-old son was strapped in child restraint. The driver was taken to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. No report of injuries to the child.
* WHY DO ARKANSAS REPUBLICANS HATE THE U.S.? I can think of no better illustration of the toxicity of politics than the Arkansas Republican election strategy as seen in this typically sneering Ark. GOP release. With the Ark. Repubs, it's all black man (to use the polite phrasing) all the time. What that means is that an Arkansas Democratic politician is held to be very nearly traitorous if he says anything kind, even polite, about the president of the United States. You may not say he inherited a tough economy; you may not say he's working hard; you may not say he's demonstrated leadership. You must not utter a single positive about the socialist black man from Kenya. There's plenty of room to disagree with what Barack Obama has done. But he has a tough job and he has demonstrated leadership — health care, foreign intervention, stimulus spending, environment. You may not like the direction, but it hasn't been lacking. But binary Republicanism — black/white, 1/2, yes/no — won't allow even that grudging concession.
* SUPER PAC FATCATS: Browsing through a New York Times compilation of major contributors to Super PACs supporting presidential candidates, I found one from Little Rock — pathologist Patrick Walker, director of the Nephropath laboratory, who gave $50,000 to the Santa Rita Super PAC associated with Ron Paul. Walmart billionaires Jim Walton and Christy Walton, John Walton's widow, gave $100,000 and $50,000 respectively to Jon Huntsman's Our Destiny Super PAC. Jim Walton and Alice Walton gave $100,000 each to Mitt Romney's Restore Our Future Super PAC.
* PULASKI ACADEMY NAMES NEW LEADER: Matthew Walsh, who's been headmaster of the LaGrange (Ga.) Academy, has been named the new CEO and head of Pulaski Academy.
* I DO HAVE ANOTHER CENTRAL HIGH STORY AFTER ALL: In touting our cover story this week — a review of SNCC's work in Arkansas during the civil rights years — I commented that it wasn't another Central High story. But wouldn't you know it? Another one has passed across my digital desk and I recommend it highly. It's in the winter issue of the Arkansas Historical Quarterly. In it, Michael Pierce, associate professor of history at the University of Arkansas, reviews a recent book on the Central crisis and, in the process, does a crackerjack job of tearing down the fiction pushed by Orval Faubus — and picked up without careful examination by this and other modern-day historians — that the fight was a class struggle, with elites and blacks aligning to reopen desegregated schools against mostly lower class whites. Wrong, so wrong, as Arkansas Gazette reporting of the late 1950s made clear. Many working class whites also wanted their schools reopened. Elite influence was undeniable in the likes of the Women's Emergency Committee's triumph in the recall of School Board members who tried to purge suspected integrationist teachers. But it wouldn't have been possible without the considerable involvement of rank-and-file from the trade unions, once a significant segment of the city's working class. Concludes Pierce:
Intransigent racism, desire for respectability, and fear of miscegenation were problems that plagued too many southern whites of all classes during the civil rights era, but the historians of the Central High crisis have transformed them into peculiarly working-class pathologies.
Working-class whites emerge in these histories as almost feral — inarticulate, socially insecure, uncivil, governed by the basest passions, herdlike, easily manipulated, politically inept, and fundamentally irrational.
Faced with evidence that complicates this caricature — be it white Teamsters driving black voters to the polls or the mostly white trade union movement making common cause with those leading the efforts to advance African-American civil rights or data suggesting that “the honest white people of the middle and lower classes” cast nearly two-thirds of the white votes for the [Stop This Outrageous Purge] STOP slate — these historians look the other way.
Only when historians consider Little Rock’s working-class whites to be fully human — with virtues as well as flaws — can the history of the Central High crisis be told.