Here’s a remarkable piece about a remarkable woman: Ruby Bridges:
Sixty years ago, a 6-year-old girl flanked by four tall, white federal marshals went to school, largely unaware of the significance of her steps.
Her mother didn’t explain before she climbed the school house steps on November 14, 1960, at William Frantz Elementary, that little Ruby Bridges would be among the first Black students in Louisiana to attend an all-white school.
It wasn’t until she was a teenager, reflecting on Normal Rockwell’s famous painting, “The Problem We All Live With,” that Bridges realized she had become a symbol of a greater cause — one that’s still playing out today.
Six decades later, the public speaker and civil rights activists says she sees children facing similar challenges, navigating an increasingly divisive political climate after months of isolation during periods of remote learning.
What strikes me about the profile is how often Bridges returns to the same word:
“I felt a sense of responsibility to really try and reach out to young people,” Bridges said in an interview with The Tribune. “It was to explain to them that what we were seeing reminded me so much of what I saw when I was 6 years old during the civil rights movement.”
Bridges’ own Frantz Elementary, like so many schools across the country, has become almost entirely Black, exemplifying a re-segregation of public education.
“It’s disheartening to me that the very school I integrated is that way,” Bridges said. “You would love for schools to be integrated but I can’t sit here and tell you that that’s going to happen. We can only be responsible for ourselves.”
Bridges placed responsibility for children’s learned attitudes about race with parents, giving the example of a white classmate she encountered on the playground who told a 6-year-old Ruby, “I can’t play with you. My mom said not to play with you because you’re a n—–.”
“I’ve often thought that if my mom had said, ‘Ruby, don’t play with him because he’s Asian, he’s Hispanic, he’s Indian, he’s mixed race, he’s white,’ I would not have played with him,” Bridges said. “That’s why I know that it is not our kids. It is us. It is adults. We are responsible for what we see playing out today.”
In the words of St. Paul, Christ, who had no sin, became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.
It is a mark of his disciples (even those who may not know they are his disciples) that they assume responsibility for sins they are not responsible for on behalf of those who are guilty of those sins, so that the sins will be fought and destroyed and the sinner saved from the sin.
Ruby Bridges, one of the people on this earth least responsible for the sin of racism inflicted on her, acts like a disciple of Jesus and takes responsibility to end it, as Jesus calls us to do. She speak of her personal responsibility for something of which she is by no means guilty in just the way that Jesus bore sins for which he was in no way guilty. You could not ask for finer display of the imitation of Christ. May her reward be great in Heaven.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven – Jesus of Nazareth