Monday, February 4, 2013

A Captured Moment

Thought for the day:  Racism isn't born, folks, it's taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list. [Denis Leary]

The Atlanta Journal ran a photograph last month, a photograph that was taken more than twenty years ago, but has been recently drawing renewed attention. A photograph I want YOU to see.

Before showing it to you, a little background information. The photographer, Todd Robertson, graduated from the University of Georgia School of Journalism in 1991, and in September of the following year, attended a Ku Klux Klan rally as a freelance photographer, in hopes of capturing some pictures for the Gainesville Times, a small local newspaper. Sixty-six KKK members showed up in Gainesville for that rally, and they were all outsiders. No locals. And there were approximately three times as many law enforcement officers on hand to keep the peace. Some notable civil rights leaders were also there, and the whole rally and peaceful counter-protest march even got some coverage on the Oprah Winfrey Show. 

                                                        Get the picture?

I think that hate is a feeling that can only exist where there is no understanding.  [Tennessee Williams]


                                                 Then, you're ready to SEE the picture.



                                 

The now-retired trooper, Allen Campbell, says he wasn't even thinking about race relations that day. To him, it was just another day on the job, and he was thinking more about the Labor Day cook-out he was missing. Then, this little fella approached to marvel at his reflection in the riot shield, and the photographer happened to be right there to capture the moment. To capture the expression on Campbell's face. And a moment is all he got... because the mother, seen at the right of the picture, quickly snatched the boy and brought him back to the stroller, where an even younger child sat, also dressed in mini-KKK garb.

Josh, the little boy in the picture, was only three years old at the time. Most people who see this picture want to know what became of him. But Campbell and Robertson, who abandoned photography shortly after taking this picture, don't know.

In light of this photograph's recent resurrection, the Gainesville Times recently interviewed Campbell and Robertson. You can see that short video here

Anybody remember the poem Children Learn What They Live [by Dorothy Law Nolte, 1972]


                        Here it is:

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
***


                           So, what happens when a child is taught to hate?

I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.  [Booker T. Washington]

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.  [St. Francis of Assisi]

Do you remember this song? It isn't a perfect match for this post, but it's insinuated itself into my mind, and insists that it's ... close enough.


So, what do YOU think of that old photograph? What do you see in it? In the expression on the trooper's face?

                                   Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.  [Martin Luther King, Jr.]

71 comments:

  1. "What do you see in it?" Good question, Susan. I see Allen Campbell, married(ring), gardens a LOT(difference in sun exposure between forearms and hands = gardening gloves), peace officer doing his job and hoping children are a sign that things will stay peaceful that day. He looks about the age I was in 1992 --and I would have been thinking about my own kids, glad they were not used so poorly by their parents.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find it intriguing that G. saw the difference in sun exposure between the forearms and hands. We really do see what we're taught -- and what we teach ourselves -- to see.

      You are a good person, Sus.

      Delete
    2. Good answer, Geo. I didn't notice the difference in skin tone, and if I did, I doubt I would have attributed it to garden gloves. Good catch! The look on his face just breaks my heart.

      Suze- Yes, we do see what we're taught, but I hope we're also capable of rising above it when what we're taught is so wrong.

      Delete
  2. The trooper in the photo is thinking "I'd like to kick that little white conehead so hard that he and his sheet will wind up in Kansas."

    Seriously, it's horrifying to think that any parent would be insane enough to dress their kids up and take them to KKK rallys.
    The poem should be mandatory reading for parents. Unfortunately, some parents can't read.......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know you're only kidding about what the trooper is thinking, but the one thing I DON'T see in his face is hatred. I see a gentle sadness.

      Yeah, I agree about that poem being mandatory reading for parents. Unfortunately, those who could benefit from it the most are probably the least likely to recognize any relevance in it.

      Delete
  3. It's frightening to think that there are still so many parents and kids who have the same beliefs out there. This is such a timeless poem that I should've had hanging on my fridge when my kids were growing up.
    Julie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right. It's absolutely frightening that there are still some KKKers left, but thankfully, their numbers are dwindling. Nowadays, their sparse rallies draw more counter-protesters than it does KKK folks.

      Delete
  4. I remember that song and I still love it.
    I think that hate is one of the most destructive emotions, Probably THE most destructive, and it has no place in my life. I raised my kids with love, respect and tolerance and I'm proud to say that none of them have hate in their hearts and no racism either.
    In that photo? All I see is a small boy fascinated with his own reflection and the tolerance on the faces of the troopers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As for that song? Me, too.

      We need more people to raise their children as you did... and as I did. Matter of fact, as all the people who typically come here to this blog did. (Opposites may attract in magnetism, but not on Blogger.)

      Delete
  5. So, what do YOU think of that old photograph? What do you see in it? In the expression on the trooper's face?

    I find it a brilliant example of the paradox of humanity. Seeing that kid being naturally curious and without any fear or animosity to that African-American cop but dressed up in a miniature hatemongers uniform is surreal. In many ways I don’t believe humans are an intelligent species, our mindless animal nature controls far too much of our behavior.

    The fear of the “stranger” who is different in some fashion appears to be hardwired in our more primitive sections of our brains. All efforts to expand beyond such base and instinctive actions is piecemeal at best with stupid religious, tribal, ethnic, and political forces always working force us back.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well-put. "Paradox of humanity" is an excellent way to describe what's in that picture. Ditto "surreal".

      However, I like to think humanity's elevation above baser instincts is a little better than piecemeal. Agreed, at times, changes seem glacial in speed, but compared to what racism looked like in the '50s, we've come a loooooong way, baby. Let's hope those forces that would want things the "way they used to be" never have enough power to regress us as a society.

      Delete
  6. Never heard that poem before. Thanks for that. Brilliant post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. Glad you liked it, and it's great to hear from you again.

      Delete
  7. Susan thank you for sharing this. I am going to share this with my coworkers today to see what they think of the picture. I would love to know what become of Josh. The symbolism in this picture so so powerful. So sad. It's as if Josh doesn't have a choice in regards to growing up feeling hate. I can only hope that he did not become like those that dressed him this way...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It sounds like this picture affected you very much as it affected me. I'd be curious as to how your coworkers react to it.

      Delete
  8. I see how disarming innocense is, to all three troopers. And I see three bored cops who know if it weren't for the media circus, this would be a non-event.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Even though it's hidden under the garb of hatred, the innocence is still quite disarming. And you're probably right about the troopers being bored and the media blowing the whole thing out of proportion.

      But, man! What a photograph.

      Delete
  9. Not quite sure what I see in the photo, but his parents should have been ASHAMED of themselves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the saddest part of all. Parents like that aren't ashamed, because they honestly believe in what they're teaching their children.

      Delete
  10. He just looks bemused to me...like he can't believe a parent would start a tiny child on this path.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He may have even had a three-year-old child at home. That'd make his thoughts even more poignant.

      Delete
  11. Powerful image. What do I see? A certain resignation in the trooper, tempered with perhaps understanding, maybe even kindness. You can see he doesn't blame the child for the parents' bigotry.

    Racism IS learned. If wise people keep teaching tolerance, though, perhaps it can be unlearned. Eventually. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see kindness in the trooper's face, too.

      Let's hope wisdom and tolerance can overcome hatred and bigotry. I believe it can.

      Delete
  12. Just goes to prove some idiots should not be allowed to breed or at least raise kids. Most everything is learned and this is surely one of them. And yeah he's prob thinking about how anyone could do such a thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kids raised in that kind of environment sure have a tougher time living what society would deem a productive... and "good"... life.

      Delete
  13. I 'felt', before I saw what was in the picture.
    I felt moved to tears that something as innocent as a child, could so easily be corrupted. I felt sadness that because of his parents beliefs, his sense of autonomy would be taken away.
    And then I looked at the trooper's face, who just looked resigned, like he'd seen it all before and that nothing else surprises him. And I thought that that was heartbreaking in itself.

    Excellent post Susan. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I'm glad you "felt" that picture as strongly as I did.

      Delete
  14. You forgot the most important quote of all regarding race relations:

    "Look to the cookie"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hnd3cduU_f0

    Sad that there are still people who want to blame their miserable life on some other ethnic group rather than the couch that bears the impression of their ass...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not much of a Seinfeld aficionado, so I didn't know what you were talking about until I checked Youtube...

      Yeah, I reckon some people think life should come with t remote control, too.

      Delete
  15. I see sadness on the trooper's face, that an innocent child has been dressed up to propogate hate and that his innocence will be stamped out by his upbringing. I'd like to believe this mother was ashamed, but sadly I know she probably wasn't.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right; I doubt if the mother felt any shame, but I sure hope Josh grew up to find his own truths.

      Delete
  16. That is an amazing pictures. A million thoughts ran through my mind staring at it.

    Children innately love. But these kinds of parents undo a lot of it when their twisted ways of thinking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That picture really IS amazing. Hard to believe the photographer didn't earn a lot of acclaim over it... or that he gave up photography to work in his dad's cabinet shop.

      Twisted, indeed. I hope the children are tough enough to untwist it when they get older.

      Delete
  17. That photo sent a shiver up my spine. I've never seen it before...thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good. I'm so glad so many of you are reacting to the pic like I did.

      Delete
  18. Well, that's heartbreaking. I do love the whole demeanor of the Trooper. And I hope Josh is a smarter, kinder person than his mother.
    Reminds me of that South Pacific song, "You've Got to Be Taught".
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJhRYYjHThI

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, good song! That one never occurred to me, but you're right; it's a perfect fit for this post. (That's one of my favorite musicals, too.)

      Delete
  19. I had this conversation about terrorists with Oldest (12) just yesterday. He asked if we had eliminated the people in charge of 911 and I said yes, but they will still hate us, because that is what they are being taught. They hate us because they are being taught to hate us. Just as there's thousands of Americans who think everyone of Islamic faith is a terrorist.

    Sad, but that's the way it is.

    Maybe someday it won't be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you're right, Juli. The best we can do is teach our own children not to hate or pre-judge.

      Delete
  20. Hi Susan,

    Very sorry I haven't been around much lately. Experiencing some turbulent times. This posting has a poignant message and we, as children, in the innocence and wonder of youth, only sought good and there were times it got blurred by the bad.

    Does it take the children to make a better land.
    Does it take the children to make us understand.

    Thank you, Susan.

    In peace and hope,

    Gary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great minds think alike. While you were visiting and commenting here, I was over at your blog. Two ships passing in the night?

      I'm really sorry things have been rough for you lately. This, too, shall pass.

      Delete
  21. wow..I know this post to be true...children learn what they live. let's all try and be kind!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely. If everyone taught their children kindness and empathy, this would be a much better world.

      Delete
  22. Great post. Home is always the first place where a child learns. May we be the instrument of God's peace. as usual, I love the quotes you used.

    'We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope."


    xx!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I'm so glad you liked the post and quotes. (That's one of my favorite MLK quotes.) Take care

      Delete
  23. The picture made me want to cry. I can't imagine dressing your kid up like that and teaching them those ideas and habits. Yet.... Every year I dress my kids up in kilts to attend the local scottish festival. The difference is that we're celebrating our heritage and culture and not condemning one, but still, it's so easy to see that happening. And as the poem says, our children are what we live.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, there's a HUGE difference between dressing a child in a kilt and dressing him in a white hooded sheet. (I sure hope you post pics of your younguns in their kilts sometime.)

      Delete
    2. I have in the past and I'll be sure to do it again but the games aren't until October.

      Delete
    3. Cool! Looking forward to seeing the bonny bairns.

      Delete
  24. Oh, wow. That picture sickens me because I feel for the child who is being fed hate like that yet it is strangely beautiful at the same time the way you see that brief little bond between them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A child that age doesn't even understand the concept of hate.

      Delete
  25. Powerful post, Susan. Never saw that photo before, but it speaks on so many levels. Obviously teaching children hate is despicable, but symbolically it's an awesome photo. The child hasn't quite absorbed the fact that he is supposed to hate these men for their color. He's just interacting on a natural human level. So fascinating the intricate human behavior going on in this scene.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That image packs a powerful punch, doesn't it? It's hard to understand why it didn't get more attention twenty years ago.

      Delete
  26. It's amazing what we teach our children.

    Hate. Why would we teach hate?

    Pearl

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's acary to think that hatred is the "norm" for some people, isn't it?

      Delete
  27. That is such a sad picture. I can't imagine what was going through that officer's mind; and the way the child is unaware of him, and only gazing at his only white-hooded reflection ... chilling.

    There are many good points raised in this piece, and of course it is true that hate can be taught and reinforced. But we are not blank slates, as that famous poem indicates. We come preprogrammed with a lot of unfortunate software, and "racism" might be one of those things. When I studied pyschology in college, I remember learning that babies show preferences for faces whose skin color matches their own. It probably used to benefit us, evolutionarily, to trust and bond with people who looked like us and do the opposite with people who didn't. Now that adaptation is not so beneficial.

    Which isn't to say we're stuck with being racist. It just requires some training to overcome. (Well worth the effort, I'd say.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, we aren't blank slates, but children are very impressionable, and the adults who raise them and teach them generally make the deepest impressions.

      That study about babies and skin color is interesting, but I dunno... I mean, even newborn babies have a natural instinct about knowing who they feel secure with, and I don't think it has anything to do with skin color. When babies get a little older, they may feel a twinge of insecurity or anxiety the first time they're exposed to people who look "different" from the people they've become accustomed to (i.e. their parents), but I wouldn't attribute that to racism, and I know from personal experiences, it isn't universal.

      Delete
  28. Your post should be required reading by the entire world. I'm doing my part and tweeting it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. You just put a huge smile on my face.

      Delete
  29. Wow! I'd never seen that photo before. Very powerful. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not nearly enough people have seen that picture before. The little newspaper it appeared in twenty years ago didn't afford it much exposure, but I sure am glad it about its recent reemergence.

      Delete
  30. Oh WOW what an emotion stirring post. Good job. I see saddness yet a little hope in the policemen's face.
    I truly thin the song says it all. B

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't tell you how happy I am that all of you are reacting to that photo as strongly as I did. Thanks.

      Delete
  31. I thought I commented on this already...maybe it went to spam? Anyway, that photo is new to me. It gave me chills. It's a very powerful photograph. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi-ya! You did respond already, and nope, it didn't go to spam. I'm touched that you cared enough to comment again.

      Delete
  32. I've seen the cat picture before, and I still wonder how they posed them like that. Probably a lot of catnip.
    The other picture, I have not seen before.
    I grew up in the south, and, in many ways, the racism is less insidious there. At least, where it is, it's out in the open and is, to a certain extent, being dealt with.
    I am for equality. In all forms.

    (There's much more I could say, but I don't have time, at that moment.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I grew up in Maryland, so I'm sure things were a lot different there than in the South, but I was so naive, I didn't even realize racism existed in our area until 1958, when we were in a car accident and my mother had to be admitted to the hospital. The "white" side was full, so she was admitted to the "black" portion until a room became available. Quite an eye-opener. There were other incidents after that, but that was the first inkling I got that all was not as hunky dory as I thought it was.

      Delete
  33. Hi Susan .. I will just add that in South Africa the dogs were taught to react differently ... I was horrified at that - the complete lack of understanding about life.

    All the best - your last comment too acknowledges the naivety of life as I was completely naive when I went out to SA ... had no idea ... Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't know the dogs in South Africa were trained to react differently to blacks, but I'm not entirely surprised. Living there must have given you a horrifying introduction to racism, but I'll bet you had a lot of wonderful experiences there, too.

      Delete
  34. It's funny...when my friend shared this pic with me on FB last week I knew I had seen it somewhere...and that somewhere was right here. Sorry I had forgotten. This image is one of the most powerful things I've ever seen...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No need to apologize! I didn't think you were following my blog yet when I ran this post, and simply thought you might find the additional info interesting. But I was wrong... you were already following. (Time flies!) At any rate, I'm glad you ran a post about it. The more people who see and contemplate this image, the better.

      Delete