Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Problem We All Live With

Obama with the 'real' Rudy Bridges
Recently President Obama has had Norman Rockwell's painting, "The Problem We All Live With," hung right outside the Oval office. The painting is a depiction of the actual events of Nov. 14, 1960, in New Orleans. Rudy Bridges, now 56 and still living in New Orleans, was escorted by four U.S. Marshals to her elementary school first grade class. She was six years old at the time, and as she walked she faced ugly slurs and taunts from an enraged crowd. When she finally got to her class that day, she was alone, as most of the parents had removed their children from the school that day. 

Rudy was the first black child to be integrated into the New Orleans public schools due to a court ordered desegregation of the schools. 

Rudy in 1960
There is some controversy over Obama's choice to hang this painting in the White House. After all, the 'N' word is clearly depicted right in the middle of the illustration, as well as references to the K.K.K. 

In my mind this painting is not an ugly reminder, intended to shame people, but a rendition of the true reality of the times. That is exactly the word that was no doubt hurled at a six year old girl as she walked to school, the picture of innocence. That's how warped the thinking of some Americans was in 1960, and perhaps still today. The K.K.K. was alive and well in the early 1960's, and murdering people outright.We must all recall and take responsibility for this history.

Why not hang the picture (albeit Rockwell's artistic vision) of a brave little girl caught amidst a momentous moment in American history?

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