At the YMCA Project Cornerstone Assets Champions Awards Breakfast last month, I was privileged to be in the audience listening to Ruby Bridges Hall, one of the first African American students to integrate an all white New Orleans school by court order in 1960. Ms. Bridges is the young student we see depicted by Norman Rockwell in his famous 1963 painting of the historic day. I was in awe as I listened to this unassuming hero describe how her childhood naiveté and the gift of community propelled her through daunting experiences as she paved the way for integration and equity in education. Mentors, community, and giving were the three essentials Ms. Bridges described in how we can build a future with and for our children that is anchored in empathy and free of racism.
“All of our babies come into the world with a clean heart.” They know nothing about race or prejudice Ms. Bridges pointed out, as she relayed the moment when she realized the impact of racism. She described the memory vividly, sharing that a little white boy in her class would no longer play with her and couldn’t come to her house after school because his parents told him he couldn’t as she was black and he was white. We teach our children to embrace the cultures and ethnicities of one another, or we don’t. Our actions inform them of what we value about others, such as the depth of the person and the beauty of one’s skin color, or the opportunities presented by one’s status in society. Giving to one another changes how we feel about others and ourselves; it builds community.
The last two weeks in Milpitas Unified School District have been abundant with examples of giving:
To echo Ms. Bridges: “Racism has no place in [our children’s] hearts, because the truth is, they will need each other just as we need each other today.” Yes, our students need each one of us, they need us to stand up for them, by uniting ourselves in an effort to evolve ever stronger as the glorious tapestry of culture that is MUSD.