Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Ruby Bridges Integrated the Schools, But Her Parents Were the Brave Ones
And never one to disappoint, my favorite show, Sunday Morning, came with it this past weekend with a story about the 50th anniversary of little Ruby Bridges' brave march up the steps of and into the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans—a solemn, scary walk that made her the first black child to integrate a public school in the South. The picture of Ruby Bridges flanked by federal marshals and walking past throngs of white anti-integrationists—cowardly adults who took time out of their busy days to jeer, threaten and scare the crap out of a 6-year-old brown baby—is an iconic symbol of a civil right that is forever etched into America's law books: Black children deserve and have the right to study, learn, grow, and get a quality education in the same classrooms as white children.
But while we celebrate Ruby and remember her bravery, I think it important to remember the two people who gave that child her heart: Lucille and Abon Bridges. See, they were the ones who made the decision to dress their brown baby in that pretty dress and send her on out the front door—to let their daughter leave the safety of their loving arms to take those measured, dangerous steps toward a better education, not only for herself, but for all African-American children.
Watch the Sunday Morning segment, replete with footage of the crazy that circled like buzzards over that little girl's head, and you understand just how big were her parents. Honestly, I don't know that I could have sacrificed my baby for the cause, knowing that that walk could have been her last.
So to Lucille and Abon Bridges, and their lovely daughter, Ruby, I simply say, "Thank you."
And after you watch the Sunday Morning story for yourself—it includes an update on Ruby, the school, and a sweet reunion between Ruby and the sole white child whose father allowed her to attend the school with the black kid—consider showing it to your babies. Mari and Lila watched with wide eyes and closed mouths. It's one thing to hear the story—a whole 'nother to actually see it played out.
We must never forget.