Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ruby's Priceless Lesson

The first African American to integrate the New Orleans school system was surprised on the first day of school when she entered her classroom and found it empty. On that day in 1961 at Franz Elementary in protest of segregation, all the parents of the white students had kept their children home.  Though segregation had been court ordered, the parents detested the idea of their children being educated at the same school as  a black person. The teachers were also upset and refused to teach. Even the principal was unhappy as she begrudgingly enforced the court order. 
Every morning for several days, people in the city, parents and their children mercilessly taunted the student as she approached the school. They intimidatingly stood on both sides of the sidewalk leading to the building and shouted obscenities as the student walked toward the entrance. At first, the student appeared to be undaunted by the hecklers, but soon the unruly people grew more hostile and began to use racially derogatory terms towards her.  Their behavior continued to escalate out of control.  They started to throw things. It became even more serious when violent 
threats were shouted.  A lady threatened to poison the student and someone even displayed  a small replica of a casket with a doll in it. If it were not for the federal agents that President Eisenhower assigned as escorts, the dangerous protestors might have harmed the student.   As the cruelty of the crowd worsened, it became very hard for the child to endure. She and her family almost  gave up trying to integrate the school.

Everyday throughout the entire time that she had been harshly treated while walking toward the entrance of the school she had ignored the protestors, never looking at them or speaking a word. Until one day while moving through the midst of the angry screaming people the child suddenly stopped and turned around and began to speak. The words spoken from the mouth the courageous 6 year-old Ruby Bridges were not words of retaliation. Demonstrating understanding and compassion beyond her years, the child said a prayer asking Jesus to forgive the people for how they were treating her, as he had forgiven those who had mistreated him long ago.  

Perhaps the prayer worked and helped to change the way the protestors treated Ruby. With the passage of time the disapproval of Ruby's presence became less apparent and she became more accepted. By standing her ground she went on to make history by being the first black student to attend school in New Orleans' public school system. 

Ruby had done nothing personally to the people protesting to deserve the kind of treatment she received. She had only entered their school to get an education. Though very painful she responded with love toward those who expressed hatred against her, teaching them forgiveness, one of the most priceless lessons of life.  Her story is told in the movie Ruby Bridges.

No comments:

Post a Comment