Before an electric speech, Ruby Bridges discusses her past and what she hopes for the future
By Gabrielle Jackson
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – In November of 1960, a young girl became the first Black child to desegregate an all-white elementary school. She was escorted by four federal marshals at the request of the President, and harassed as she entered the doors of William Frantz Elementary school in New Orleans, Louisiana. While this seems like a situation from several generations of our past, this time in history was only 58 years ago. Many of us have grandparents alive that would be able to recall this pivotal moment in American history, one that changed the landscape of education forever. However, in all aspects of life, “separate but equal” has plagued our society into believing that we’ll reach our goals separately. This includes judging one another, all the while creating an atmosphere of issues that continues to divide our nation. At Niagara University, Ruby Bridges affirmed this notion with an invigorating speech about her experience and what she hopes will carry us into the future.
I was lucky enough to sit down with her to discuss some of the issues we face in America, hearing her thoughts on why she believes this utopian future belongs with our children.
“If we are going to get past our racial differences, it’s going to be our kids,” Mrs. Bridges-Hall states. “I can’t say that parents all agree, and that’s because they come from a different time and place.”
While it is true that our racial differences can be solved by the kids of our generation, there are so many who still follow the teachings of their parents. What is deemed abnormal in the parent’s eyes, can easily be an issue they pass down to their offspring. Children learn from their elders, whether from their speech or their actions, they follow what they are taught. Often times, what children are taught becomes what they know, and if bigotry and racism are taught…the rest is history. However, how does one begin to abandon their ignorance?
“You have to understand that we are all human,” she mentions. “You have to allow yourself to see that person as a human being, just like you… We feel like we are going to be short-changed, miss out on something, [that] something [is] being taken away from us, [that] keeps us separated.”
After a moment of silence, she brings her thoughts together and mentions, “Somebody had asked me once, do you think those people outside of the school saw you, a six year old? and my answer would be “No, they saw change.””
This idea of change is something that sometimes forces people to recognize that the world they were once comfortable with, is not the same. Sometimes, change is needed to really bring about what is necessary for the future. While some communities feel as though there is an agenda being forced upon them, they also must recognize that another community has always had an agenda against them. Change gives people the opportunity they may not have once had. It also forces people to learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. In a world that changes so frequently with education, technology, and so much more, brave people are needed to discover the effects of these changes. Much like Ruby Bridges.
As a Black woman born in the south, and able to be put in a position to foster growth at a school where many do not look the same as me, Ruby Bridges was the light that allowed me the ability to draw my path. There are so many children who have been able to experience a life of equal opportunity that their parents didn’t have access to. The mentality that separatism is the way to success in a world that is shared by many, will only be detrimental to our growth. Mrs. Bridges-Hall mentions in our interview that in losing somebody like Dr. King, we lost a leader that we have not been able to replace.
She goes on to say that “he was a man of the people, and just because he was Black, did not mean that he was just a Black leader. There was a wrong that needed to be corrected.”
In her speech later that evening in the Dining Commons at Niagara University, she mentions that her biggest lesson she would like for us to take away from her speech is that we cannot judge and that evil is our common enemy.
This wrong that needed to be corrected is something that the next generation can use to support each other. There will come a time where the world must set aside their differences, and meet each other at eye level to defeat a greater power. If this greater power is evil, and evil uses us to judge one another, for the future generation I can only hope that good becomes our savior.
Featured Image: By Andrew Emmons