"Racism is a grown-up disease and we must stop using our children to spread it."
Neighborhood Seminary works with communities to heal the wounds of racism, sexism, classism, all sinful “isms” and phobias with the belief that we can take part in bringing hope into the eyes of all of our children.
This blog was originally posted on Corneilus Corps and is reposted here with permission from Dr. Jim Melson.
Ruby Bridges, age 6, escorted by federal marshalls
White mob protesting Ruby Bridges integration of William Franz Elementary School in New Orleans
Next week the academic year begins for those students in public school systems that start after Labor Day. In 1960, school did not start until November for six year old Ruby Bridges because of legal efforts to keep her from being the first Black child to integrate William Franz Elementary School in New Orleans. When those efforts finally failed, she had to be escorted to and from school by federal marshalls due to hostile mobs of white people who hurled verbal abuse and threats against this six year old child. Even when Ruby made it into the school building, teachers and staff who opposed her presence refused to teach her in a class with other children. For her entire first grade year, Ruby was taught in a class by herself. Her teacher, Barbara Henry, stood up to that opposition and provided as much education and nurture as possible under the circumstance of this racist form of “quarantine.”
One day a young psychiatrist happened to pass by the school and stopped to witness the daily harassment directed at Ruby. He offered to counsel Ruby and her family. Dr. Robert Coles went on to be an esteemed child psychiatrist and Pulitzer Prize winning author who shared Ruby’s story with a national audience. During one of his sessions with Ruby, Dr. Coles asked her about something he heard from her teacher, that Ruby prayed for the people who harassed her each day. Her response was, “Yes I do pray for them.” When asked why she did this in the face of the mob’s hostility she replied, “I go to church every Sunday, and we’re told to pray for everyone, even the bad people, and so I do.” Ruby Bridges is one of the great examples of what it means to live the way of Jesus including praying for our enemies. Ruby Bridges continues to work for justice and equality through her foundation. The short video posted below tells her story in her own words.
The ministry of Cornelius Corps focuses on the relationship between spiritual formation and racial justice. The witness of Ruby Bridges is an inspiration and reminder that our spiritual practices and our commitment to racial justice are based in the unconditional love of God for all people. As Scripture says, “…and a little child will lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)
Thank you for reading this week's reflection. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments.
Rev. Jim Melson, Executive Director