Loren McCullough, 2/11/21, positiveexperience.org/blog
In our last blog post, we introduced the Black History Month series we’ll be running on the HOPE blog, to highlight and honor the work of Black individuals in the fields of public health, education, and child welfare. Today, we reflect on Ruby Bridges and the harmful effects of racism against Black girls in education. In next week’s post, we will be releasing a new resource that walks you through four questions you can ask to begin changing racist policies and practices at work.
It is a sunny day in New Orleans, and a young girl is on her ride to school. Along the way, she can see glimmers outside the window, light reflecting off of barricades on either side of the street. There are people standing behind them, tons of people. She thinks excitedly that today must be Mardi Gras. Why else would there be crowds in the streets?
But when the car stops, she hears the chanting. This crowd is not celebrating, nor throwing their hands up in jubilee – they are screaming angrily. “2, 4, 6, 8! We don’t want to INTEGRATE!”
Federal marshals surrounded her on the morning of November 14th, 1960, leading the small form of 6-year-old Ruby Bridges through a sea of furious White faces. Before she left home, Ruby was given her lunchbox and told that she would be going to a new school that day. And that was all. There was no sit-down discussion, no painful explanation about the drawn-out legal decision that meant she and three other girls would be the first black students to integrate into two all-White public schools in New Orleans. She had no idea the months of torment and threat that she would face; she was not scared. She did not leave that morning as a civil activist, with the weight of desegregation laid heavy on her shoulders.
She was just a six-year-old girl, sent off to a new school and told to behave.