I wasn’t around during the time of segregation, and I can’t even begin to imagine what things were like during that time period. I want to start by first saying Happy Belated Birthday to Ruby Bridges. She turned 63 on September 8th.
I remember the first time I learned about her, and her impact on the world. I was intrigued by her bravery, and her ability to do something that no one had done before in the South, as she was the first African American student to integrate a White elementary school. Her story stuck with me, and will always be one that I’ll never forget. One interesting fact that was made known while reading about her was that Bridges was born the exact same year of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which desegregated schools. It was destined for her to walk the path that she did. The fact that she lived close to an all White school, but had to attend school numerous miles away baffled me. I can’t imagine walking past a school close to my home, but not being able to attend due to my skin color.
Bridges was also one of the few African American students who were able to pass the test that allowed them entry into the White schools. The test was known to be difficult as the idea was for the African American students to fail so that they wouldn’t have a chance to integrate the school systems. How familiar does that sound? In today’s society, standardized testing has caused many students to not experience great success in their education. In some cases, many students haven’t been able to graduate from high school due to the students not being able to pass the test. Is it ironic that research shows that minorities, specifically African American students perform the lowest on standardized tests? Is it safe to say that we still have a system in place for some of our students to fail? I’ll let you think about that.
I admire Bridges, as her journey was not an easy one. She received numerous threats, and was isolated from the rest of the school due to her skin color. These are just two of many things that she endured, and let’s not forget that she was just a kid in elementary school experiencing all of this. When I think about elementary kids, I think about innocence, and how they are still learning about the world around them. They are still like sponges at that age just trying to soak up what their environment is offering them, and for Bridges, it was nothing but negativity, hatred, and racism. However, it was her mental strength and family that helped her endure her journey.
We can learn a lot from Bridges, as we can connect to her story in one way or another. Maybe you didn’t have to go through exactly what she went through, but I am sure you have been faced with an obstacle that was challenging. For me, Bridges reminds me to never give up. As cliché as it may sound, it’s the truth. We don’t know what life has in store for us. I think that’s part of what makes life beautiful. Living with the unknown. We can only do what we can, and pray that the decisions we make will help better us as individuals in this society. Bridges endured a lot to be so young, but it strengthened her. Little did her enemies know, that each punch they threw, they were making her stronger. Our obstacles do not live so that we may become broken; they live so that we can be pushed to reach our fullest potential. Thank God for Ruby Bridges.