[sixties-l] Hunter-Gault recalls first steps onto white campus

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 01/08/01

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    Hunter-Gault recalls first steps onto white campus
    TUESDAY, JANUARY 9, 2001
    By Mark Clayton (claytonm@csps.com)
    Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
    For CNN reporter Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the foam and fury of the political 
    transition in South Africa contains echoes of her years at the University 
    of Georgia (UGA), which today celebrates the 40th anniversary of its 
    desegregation. Ms. Hunter-Gault was one of the first black students to 
    attend the school.
    She looked back at the time in a recent telephone interview:
    What are your memories of that first night in the University of Georgia dorm?
    In a real sense, those events helped to motivate my life. I remember 
    walking under that archway [onto the campus], that it was a brisk January 
    day, the coat I was wearing, the kind of blouse, socks, and boots. We were 
    children of the black middle class, taught to present ourselves to the 
    world as well turned out as we could.  The media will call me a pioneer, 
    but I had a life before I went to the University of Georgia. And my values 
    were already formed. But this was the test of all that armor that our 
    family and our community had been piling on us through our values passed on 
    to us through school and church.
    What's most significant about that time?
    UGA was the bastion of the old order. Everyone who protected and defended 
    and perpetuated the old order went there. So for it to fall, led to every 
    other bastion falling in its wake.
    By the fall of 1961, high schools and elementary schools were being 
    desegregated. It just opened up the whole state. I'm not sure I realized it 
    was going to be that big. If I had thought about it, it might have been 
    daunting. We did instinctively what we had to do to get through the rough 
    patch, just get through the day.  Then things got better. Not perfect. But 
    you could go for days without someone yelling a nasty epithet at you.  You 
    see, you don't want a color-blind society. You want one that accepts you 
    for who you are. So you don't do something like this to make history, you 
    do it to change things. I did it to change from having us be extraordinary 
    because we went to school - which was a bit ridiculous because everybody 
    went to school - to having us be ordinary.
    What's your impression of then-Gov. Ernest Vandiver and other politicians 
    from that period?
    I didn't much appreciate them at the time, but I appreciate their change of 
    heart. One of the rallying cries at the time was, you can't legislate 
    morality. I thought, Yeah, that's right, but if you legislate what is 
    right, the morality will follow in society. You've got to start somewhere.
    What do you think of the use of affirmative action in admissions?
    I think what's important for people to be aware of is this context: Only 6 
    percent of the [21,000] students at UGA are African-American, and this is 
    after 40 years. Yet there are 36 percent minorities in the state.
    What you're looking at is historical patterns and practices of 
    discrimination against blacks that ended legally when I entered UGA. We 
    have the same thing in South Africa. We have this seven-year-old country, 
    and they're in the middle of some pretty painful debates and they have race 
    on the front burner. In [South Africa], affirmative action isn't a dirty 
    word - it's government policy. So I'm very curious to see how this plays out.
    For further information:
    40th Anniversary of UGA's Desegregation

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