Ruby Bridges

God bless America, Land that I love
Stand beside her And guide her
through the night with a light from above–
from the mountains to the prairies
to the oceans white with foam
God bless America, my home sweet home.


My friend Laura shared a link on her facebook page that led to a copy of the photo above, and a small paragraph about Ruby Bridges, the six-year-old girl who was the first student to participate in the integration of the New Orleans, Louisiana School system.  If you’re anything like me, you learned her name for a few moments in school–maybe not even her name, only glancing at the iconic photograph, recognizing that integration happened, and moving on.

What stuck with me–not her name, sadly–was that while several students volunteered, passed the requisite tests, and were permitted to transfer to the then all-white school, Ms. Bridges was the only one who actually went. I recall thinking, they let her go alone.  Of course, she had the federal marshals to protect her–a six year old girl!–from the angry crowds, but what company is a marshal to a little girl?  She would later say that she thought the crowds at the school were gathered there to celebrate mardi gras!

Teens Shout At Police Officers During Protest

And what about these bitter, angry, terrified southern housewives and mothers who–I guess–in some unfathomable, deeply misguided, ignorant way looked at the arrival of this small child as the destruction of their good, Christian way of life?  (note the chubby blond kid has a sign that says “All I want for Christmas is clean, white schools”–ironic, isn’t it, that the arrival of a small child–just before the holiday season–could throw everyone into such a tizzy?)  Did they grow to understand they were on the wrong side of history, did they pray to their god for forgiveness of their hate and cruelty?  Or did they live out their lives, poisoned by spite Tea-Party-Hubrisand fear, huddled in their shacks and mobile homes?  Note the placard held by one of these pleasant ladies above–“states rights”–and its relevancy today; the Teabag Party is still using the same strategy to cloak their own angry, bile-soaked agendas.

9046086-largeThe ignorant masses didn’t just reserve their spite for the black kids, mind you–white families who sent their children to school were harassed mercilessly as well, harangued as traitors and “communists”–a word the lunatic fringe still uses today to describe their adversaries, though I’ve convinced there isn’t a single one of them the actually knows what the word truly means–they employ it as a convenient catch-all, a synonym for “bad.”

You’ll find some excellent details here: Fifty years later, students recall integrating New Orleans public schools–A good article and some great pictures.


The thing that sticks with me about this story–and the many more like it–is that apart from all the tales of individual and small group heroics–from little Rosa Parks to the Kennedys, from determined, defiant black sharecroppers demanding their right to vote to the young, ivory tower idealist freedom riders who joined them in risking their lives in a struggle to make this country what was meant to be, not what the smallest among us would have it be–the fight is so long, so drawn out, so utterly ridiculous.  More than 50 years has passed since Ruby Bridges took that walk, and our nation still bears racism like a cross on our shoulders.  And heck, we’re all about building a giant wall to keep out the tired, the poor,
the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, not to mention the wretched refuse of teeming shores, the homeless, tempest-tost…and so on.  And then there is discrimination against folks whose definitions of love and attraction lie in the swift waters and eddies outside the mainstream persist, our squinting suspiciously at a world full of people whose skins come in countless shades of brown–as if every one of them has a bomb in his underwear.

Imagine what we could accomplish if that energy was directed elsewhere, at genuine problems, instead of all this static. The thing is: I can’t.  I can’t imagine that better world, and doesn’t that just suck?

9 responses to “Ruby Bridges”

  1. Great and thought provoking message, always good to have these reminders of where we have come from and how much farther we may need to go! Smiles, Robin


  2. Looks like a great Mardi Gras party, but what’s with all those signs? I remember those “good ol’ days” well. Some retarded jerk one town over from us in east Tennessee burned down the high school. It didn’t stop integration, since Clinton sent its students to one of our unused schools. Yep; we need our teabaggers [pun intended] to restore our fair nation to those idyllic days.


  3. Great post – sad to waste our lives by living so little and embracing hate.


  4. I started out reading this and was appreciating the food for thought. Then I came upon the same hateful sewage that was slug back then when you mentioned the tea party. I am not of any particular party, but I have attended a tea part rally to see what some of my friends found so distasteful that they, like yourself, would spew hatred and prejudice without even understanding what they stood for. I found the meeting enjoyable and the individuals to be considerate and concerned about the country and the problems that face us all today. I find the greatest problem that rocks the foundation of this country is the hate between parties. In my opinion, you are all alike in that you spew anger and hate for one another out of the same mouth you claim to love mankind. You are all pawns playing into the hands of the higher powers, ” Divided we fall”


    1. I re-read my post to see what it was you find so distasteful but can’t, for the life of me, find any instance where I “spew hatred,” particularly in relation to the Teabag Party. I did mention that they employ the same “states rights” argument that the overt racists of past days used, which is a fact, and the misuse of the term “communists,” also a fact. The only other reference to the Teabaggers I make is a glancing shot about immigration–that quote about the wall mixed with the statue of liberty’s pledge, another historical refrain, each new wave of immigrants being hated and feared by those who came before. I don’t hate teabaggers on principle, but I object to much of what they stand for and will say so, strenuously, without hesitation, even though I’d defend their right to their opinions. If you knew me, you would probably be surprised to find that I’m equally hard on a lot of squishy liberal claptrap as well. My question to you is this: will we solve issues by sitting silent, afraid to offend? I don’t think so. Thanks for reading my blog. I often enjoy yours.


  5. I agree we should be free to exercise voice, however, we should ask ourselves if we are well informed as to who we voice those objections to. My involvement with politics left a very bad taste in my mouth for all parties. The divisive tactics propagated by the higher powers keep the party members duped. Party leaders would have you believe there is a differing objective..the leaders all have the same objective: to divide and conquer. I hope I did not offend you..I only meant to get across how one needs to really examine much deeper than the surface as to who the enemy is and what & to whom we need to voice the offense. I do get intense as well and I am sure since you read my blogs that you know I am not one to shut up either. I only meant to point out that those we thing are contrary to our belief system may not be as opposed to our objectives as we may think they are. BTW, I appreciate the visits to my blogs..thank you.


  6. This was a well thought out and composed post. I read the article you linked. It was fascinating. I too see similar hate and fear in groups today. A woman challenged me this week with an epitaph of ‘Liberal’ and then went on to warn me what a scourge it was for the government to require vaccines when brown kids that came from south of the boarder were bringing diseases into the school and THEY should be the ones to be sent home, not the unvaccinated. That was quickly followed by praise for a prominent American, Australian Owned, infotainment ‘news’ channel that told the truth.


  7. Your comments, so pertinent.


    In the Bible
    As I recall
    There is a parable
    About a lost sheep

    Sometimes I wonder
    Whether it isn’t
    The rest of the flock
    Who are lost


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