Is Tamron Hall the only talking head who sees a link between today’s red-faced crowds screaming at child immigrants from Central America and the white mobs screaming at the nine black teenagers who tried to integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957?
Earlier this week, the host of MSNBC’s NewsNation was discussing the protests over the stranded immigrant children. In Oracle, Arizona, protesters waving signs reading “Return to sender” and “Unwelcome—go home” shoved mariachi musicians and stopped a bus—until they realized it was filled with YMCA campers (oops); in Murrieta, California, some 200 to 300 people surrounded buses filled with immigrant detainees and forced the vehicles to turn back.
Hall is one of the very few in the media to even put the words “immigrant children” and “Little Rock” in the same story. She said she was reminded of the “young children going to school in Little Rock and being met by angry adults when the kids did not understand what was going on.”
One of her guests, Politico columnist Roger Simon, readily agreed, and asked, “Who are the real lawbreakers here—the little children on the bus, or the protesters who are blocking the legal actions of the federal government to move children to a federal detention center for their own safety?”
We tend to either forget the past or assume we’ve progressed way beyond those bad old days. Especially when we’re in the middle of a crisis, the media and the country at large tend to lag in recognizing historical precedents.
Hall didn’t go into the details of Little Rock—Governor Orval Faubus calling in the Arkansas National Guard to stop the black students from entering the school; the “jeering, brick-throwing mob” that taunted them and beat up several reporters; President Eisenhower sending in 101st Airborne Division paratroopers and putting the Arkansas National Guard under federal command to protect the students. Two years later, the house of one of the students was bombed. (For more and photos from Life magazine, go here.)
Of course, the two crises are quite different. Aside from the shoving of the mariachi players, actual physical violence has not (yet?) broken out against the immigrant children or their supporters. It’s not clear how far, if at all, President Obama will go in defending the children, or if, as the right is demanding, state national guards will be sent to the border to stop the children (exactly how is a mystery.)
But by even briefly putting the immigrant crisis into a larger context, linking it to something the nation is ashamed of and would rather forget, Hall remembered history, which is a good way not to repeat it.