It’s 1960, the Kenyan Crisis ended, Kennedy announced his run for the US presidency, the Beatles haven’t yet come to the fore, Adolf Eichman is captured by Israeli agents, ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ is published, a number of former colonial countries become independent, the Civil Rights Movement was gaining ground in the US, the US sends troops to Vietnam, 100,000 people attend “Ban the Bomb” rally in London, D.H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” on sale 32 years after it was banned, Chubby Checker popularises the Twist, Sirimavo Bandaranaike – first female PM (Sri Lanka) Ceylon, folk music moves into protest, and a number of rights movements begin, and with the pill and a number of other birth control methods the sexual revolution gathers momentum. When you read the detail of the time, they were heady days, with dramatic change
And yet … we have the scene above. The beginning of integration for black and white students in American schools. Ruby Bridges six years old, and who passed the enrolment test, was the first African- American student to be enrolled in the formerly all-white Wiiliam Frantz Elementary School, escorted to and from school by four federal marshals! Incomprehensible, despite the historical data showing how it came to be. Bridges endured running the gauntlet of a hostile white protest every day for twelve months, parents removing their children in protest, grafiti, people yelling slurs and hate. She spent twelve months alone with her teacher, Barbara Henry, and child psychologist Robert Coles. Eventually more African-American students were enrolled and the furore died down. Norman Rockwell (1894 – 1978) immortalised Bridges bravery in the painting “The Problem We All Have To Live With.”
Bridge’s father lost his job and the family were refused service at their local store. Though neighbours organised another job, and some white people stood with the family, it was a tough year. But everyone involved in the integration praised Ruby for her bravery.
Ruby Bridges became a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement, the brave child who survived the hostile resistance to integration. I certainly feel inspired by her stance and determination.
If you read her story and watch the archive footage on Youtube, you can see the determination on her face, which tells me she was integrated psychologically. Carl Jung argued that maturity at core was individuation – the ability to separate oneself from others as an identity. Clearly six year old Ruby was able to do that. If only we’d follow suit. How wonderful it would be to lived in a world where skin colour, language, religion/philosophy, culture, nationality, were of no significance, but where the freedom to be yourself, where communities are integrated and psychological maturity are the mark of every person, imagine that!
Gray is not an option, colour is to be celebrated, melanin is no measure intellect, spirituality, ability, or the right to exist, we are people, varied and beautiful, let’s live that.
“No one (man, sic) will ever be whole and dignified and free except in the knnowledge that the people around them (men, him) are whole and free and that the world itself is free of contempt and misuse.” Wendell Berry
“The world does not need white people to civilize others. The real White People’s Burden is to civilize ourselves.” Robert Jensen
offensive by day colour is perception and light darkness cured blindness ©Paul Cannon