A little girl named Ruby is breaking my daughter’s heart, and I’m okay with that.
Her third grade class is watching the movie Ruby Bridges, the true story of a little African-American girl who integrated an all-white school in New Orleans by herself in 1960, per court order. My daughter and her peers view it in bite-sized chunks, then she comes home after each screening with tears spilling from her big blue eyes.
And I’m okay with that.
She’s upset that there are black kids in her class watching the movie with her, who she believes must feel so hurt by how Ruby was treated because they all have the same skin color.
She’s upset that a grown white woman put a black baby doll in a coffin for Ruby to walk by, upset that Ruby could only eat food she brought to school because of the threat of poisoning.
She’s upset that grown-up after grown-up made decisions to keep their kids away from Ruby because, in my daughter’s words, “she was browner than them.” They didn’t let the kids decide whether they’d be okay sitting near her. They didn’t care who saw them threaten a child, despite being parents, themselves.
And I’m okay with that.
She SHOULD feel upset that this really happened. It’s horrifying as a parent or a child. Embarrassing as a white person. And terrifying as a human. But we need to know. To not forget. To be heartbroken.
This only happened 56 years ago.
Ruby is still alive, so her past is part of my daughter’s present. Their lives are overlapping. This is blowing my daughter’s 8-year-old mind.
Yes, I pointed out at how accepting and diverse and kind and respectful our community is, our schools are.
Yes, I reminded her of the time she and I recently worked together to stop hate and stupidity in its tracks to ensure the intended victims knew we would stand between them and anyone who tried to hurt them.
Yes, I explained that we, as a country, have come very far since Ruby’s first walk through the screaming crowd of protesters. It is far from perfect, but it is getting better.
But as hard as it is for me to see her in pain, see her eyes opening to another awfulness in this world, I let her feel her heartbreak. I let her feel her rage. I believe feeling them is the fuel that can compel her to grow up into a person who understands when things are wrong, then takes action to make sure horrible, hateful treatment of people stops happening.
I’m willing to risk the tears of my own little girl today if they help her become the kind of woman to protect all the Rubys of tomorrow.