Caveat


Will Counts Collection/Indiana University Archives.

“True reconciliation can occur only when we honestly acknowledge our painful, but shared, past.” – Elizabeth Eckford.

Those words are on a sticker attached to a poster titled “Reconciliation,” which features a photograph of the present-day Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan. The sticker was added after Eckford and Bryan’s relationship ended. Some details here.  You can also read author David Margolick’s interview here.  Here’s what he had to say about the rift:

One of them is stubborn and proud, and the other is hurt and proud, and they won’t come back together again. Elizabeth is willing to. Hazel is not.

What Hazel has [to] say to explain her disappointment and hurt is important for people to hear. She speaks for a lot of people who have tried to bridge these racial gaps and have been disappointed.

No one tried as hard as she did, although maybe nobody had as much of an obligation to do it as she did. She’s very clear that she shamed her country, state and family, and she’s well aware of how egregious what she did was. She’s led a good life and has tried to do the right thing.

She’s very hurt and stung. It ended up being so thankless that she said to hell with everyone. She won’t speak about it again.

Also:

Elizabeth judged Hazel very sharply, and no [one] has more standing to be skeptical than Elizabeth. But even people who’ve been hurt, but maybe particularly those who have been hurt, sometimes need to summon as much forgiveness as they can. Friends sometimes have to be forgiving, especially when elements of the underlying connection are still there.

When I read this, it came across as a typical privileged viewpoint. The thankless role of being a good white person, because the person of color just can’t let it go.

4 thoughts on “Caveat

  1. Yes, friends don’t “have” to do anything’ certainly that don’t have to take his advice. Maybe what Hazel did, and the immortalization of that moment, was just too big for one person to get over and forgive. It was always her call. Also, Elizabeth came to doubt Hazel’s sincerity, which would be enough to derail a strong friendship, let alone a bond like theirs.

    On the other hand, without forgiveness there is no going forward.

    I don’t know if he meant to say that, but that’s how it strikes me. Full of contradictions and something that can’t really be judged.

  2. Trust is key to a relationship, and Hazel is not trustworthy. Simple as that. Sure, Elizabeth is willing to forgive, even without that trust in place, but Hazel wants a cookie AND an apology for her failures, even to bridge the divide. To me, Hazel is still a small minded, hate filled person who believes in white supremacy, that’s why she can “help the disadvantaged” without even attempting to understand or open her own eyes.. to the truth.

  3. All I can see on the face of things is that Elizabeth thought Hazel had made further strides in understanding than she actually had. Partly because she couldn’t believe that Hazel had been so much less impacted by fallout from the photo than she apparently has been. Elizabeth was not only strongly impacted by fallout from the photo, but by living through those times. I can imagine her incredulity that Hazel was not more meaningfully affected. And her subsequent distrust of Hazel makes perfect sense.

    This line: “Friends sometimes have to be forgiving, especially when elements of the underlying connection are still there”, is troubling to me because I saw no quotes from either woman stating that they were friends. Just because people hang out a couple times doesn’t make them friends.

    To go off on a tangent for a minute, my observation of the definition of friends is that it is largely influenced by culture. People who have grown up privileged, and/or who have not needed to be less trusting because of their surroundings or their status in the world, are often more free/loose with their “friend” label. Many times the distinctions are made down race lines – such as the generalization that white people will call someone they met at a Starbucks their friend, where black people will call them an acquaintance or associate, and generally be more guarded about who they let into their inner circle. But I don’t think it’s race that really influences these trends as much as culture, status, and privilege.

    Anyway, my point is that I didn’t get the feeling that these women were necessarily friends. They had some moments together, they tried to build a bridge toward some understanding, and it unraveled when they found that they hadn’t reached the place they thought they had. Honestly, I find it manipulative and fake that the relationship was so monitored and engineered. It sounds as though it was just for the warm fuzzies and the story – not about the actual women involved.

    I like how Hazel’s preferred caveat
    “True reconciliation can occur only when we honestly let go of resentment and hatred, and move forward.”
    is the standard oppressor caveat. Translation: “Hey oppressed people! We’d totally get along if you could just be the bigger person and forgive and forget! (Continuously)”

    I can admit that if you have any kind of conscience it’s hard to really acknowledge doing something truly evil to someone else. But at the same time, if you have any kind of conscience, can you do anything less?

  4. “‘It’s very hard for me to sit there and listen to you, Elizabeth,’ she said weakly. ‘It’s very hard for me… and if there’s anything I could give you… if I could take it back… if I could…’ She began to sob”

    Gotta love the white woman tears. They always come on cue.

    There there, don’t feel so bad for being a volatile, racist jerk. Have a cookie.

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