Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of the nine black students who desegregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957, spoke recently before a group of teenage girls and told them that they still need to guard against racism and what she described as willful ignorance today.
Trickey, 67, said she sees white and black students in the classrooms of the school she fought to attend, choosing to seat themselves in groups of blacks and whites and associate with students of the same race. A lack of diversity in people’s personal lives breeds ignorance, she said, and ignorance–especially willful ignorance–breeds racism.
“We never got integration,” she said. “We got a measure of desegregation.”
She said the need for diversity in people’s lives has never been stronger, and lamented the relative lack of diversity even today in Little Rock, where blacks and whites socialize separately though they may attend classes and work together, and other minority groups are represented only in tiny numbers. She contrasted that with the advantages enjoyed by her children, raised in northern Ontario, who were able to choose a school with students from a broad range of ethnic and social backgrounds.
She told the youngsters that the principles of nonviolence taught by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi, who led the fight for India’s independence from Great Britain, are as useful in everyday lives as they are in great causes.