Fifty-eight years ago today, six-year-old Ruby Ridges became the first African American child to go to a previously all-white elementary school. She was escorted there, through crowds of angry, shouting protestors, by Federal Marshals.
At one time, I saw this as a key step forward, a moment in history when things got better.
It’s memorialised in this painting “A Problem We All Live With” by Norman Rockwell and the poem I’ve added to it, “My First Day At School” by Michaela Morgan.
It had become a milestone in our progress towards a more equal society, less driven by hate and fear.
A few years ago the all-grown-up Ruby Ridges met with the first African American President of the United States so things MUST have gotten better.
Now we have Trump and Brexit and vicious, hate-driven, fear-soaked nationalism and racism raising its head proudly across Europe.
So now I see the events of 14th November 1960 differently.
It was a step forward. It was a lesson learned.
But it wasn’t enough.
It can never be enough.
We can drive hate and fear into remission but we cannot eliminate them. They will always come back.
Today, fear and hate are being nurtured by men, hungry for power, who want to use them as weapons to divide and attack us.
I understand now that some lessons, the important ones, have to be taught more than once.
It has fallen to us to combat fear and the hate it produces and refuse to retreat from the progress we have made.