This story originally ran on Aug. 16, 2017, in the wake of the Charlottesville, Virginia, riots. Nov. 14, 2020 is the 60th anniversary of Ruby Bridges, then 6, becoming the first African American child to desegregate William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.
It's in our history books now -- that picture of a brave little Black girl, book bag in hand, escorted by four federal marshals into an all-white school in New Orleans. Norman Rockwell's version of that iconic moment even hung in the Obama White House.
But his heroism came with a price. Those people we saw over the weekend shouting their hateful slogans in Charlottesville, Virginia, were out in force in the South in that era. That beautiful first grade girl had to walk through screaming haters, haters just like the ones we saw in Virginia, as she made her way to school. She spent her first year in a classroom of one, with no white child willing, or allowed, to join her.
What incredible courage that took. Think of it. That child went every day to school with a posse surrounding her. In later years, those marshals wondered at her fortitude. And what courage it took for her parents to persist in their insistence that Ruby receive an equal education to that of the white children her age.
Those are the people we saw marching in Charlottesville this weekend. People who threatened a first grader on her way to school. People who vowed to destroy a federal judge insisting that the law be followed. Those are the people Trump referred to as "very fine people."
Would Trump do the same? Would he mobilize the power of the federal government to assure the safety of a Black child who simply wanted to go to school?
After the events of the last few days, it's hard to believe that he would. When faced with the kind of hate that we had hoped was behind us as a country, Trump failed to condemn it with the force that we have come to expect from our presidents. That failure of moral leadership will live with us forever, just like that picture of Ruby Bridges.