Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Reading for Activists

Years ago i read a handful of books by Robert Coles (i find an author i like and i just gotta read everything they've written). In the Moral Life of Children Coles wrote of his encounter and work with Ruby Bridges - a story worth reading as the International Day for the Elimination of Racism approaches - March 21 (also the first day of spring). Ruby was a young girl when school desegregation laws were implemented in her town in Louisiana. She famously attended class alone for many months as the parents of white children refused to let their children attend school with a black child. Ruby was six. Coles wrote:

Why not, too, think of the child as moral protagonist or antagonist - as in the South's racial conflict? Ruby, at ten, looked back at four years of somewhat unusual school attendance. A black child, she walked past hostile mobs at age six to enter a once all-white school in New Orleans... Her view of her experience? "I knew I was just Ruby," she told me once, in retrospect - "just Ruby trying to go to school, and worrying that I couldn't be helping my momma with the kids younger than me, like I did on the weekends and in the summer. But I guess I also knew I was the Ruby who had to do it - go into that school and stay there, no matter what those people said, standing outside. And besides, the minister reminded me that God chooses us to do His will, and so I had to be His Ruby, if that's what He wanted. And then that white lady wrote and told me she was going to stop shouting at me, because she decided I wasn't bad, even if integration was bad, then my momma said I'd become 'her Ruby', that lady's, just as she said in her letter, and I was glad; and I was glad I got all the nice letters from people who said I was standing up for them, and I was walking for them, and they were thinking of me, and they were with me, and I was their Ruby, too, they said."

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