Many of us look back with shame at the treatment of Ruby Bridges, one of the first black students (1960) to attend an all white elementary school. Only one teacher in the school would agree to teach her. Armed guards escorted her to school amid an environment of unimaginable hostility.
It's hard to imagine today what people were thinking as they threatened a little girl going to school. It's hard to understand that most school officials, the community, and most of the parents affiliated with the school could be so hostile - even to the point that one put a black doll in a coffin outside in protest. Viewing this in hindsight and for those seeing this from a great distance at the time, it was horrific. But in that community, at that time, the hostility was normal and they felt - quite justified.
Ruby Bridges symbolized a break in tradition and a crossing of barriers that they felt should not be crossed. They were justified to express their anger and could not see beyond it - even justified enough to hate a little girl going to school. Blacks, they felt, were not and could never be treated as equals.
Scenes like this awakened a nation. It unveiled the core of hatred for what it is - sad and evil.
I recall the news stories and the talk of that decade. We may not have had separate water fountains, but even here in Venango County, Pennsylvania there were traditions and cultural lines that were not to be crossed. Those carried into the 70's and 80's and undertones continue.
As there is a push for change, there will always be resistance. As I watch the stories unfold in the quest for LGBT civil rights, I need only read stories like this about Ruby Bridges to understand how far people will go to resist change. It will boil up in outrageous hatred. There will be communities who stand by silently as vocal citizens say and do outrageous things.
On the other side - decades from now - many will look back in shame. It will be hard to imagine what people were thinking as they picketed a soldiers funeral saying that it was God's punishment for Gays in the military. It will be hard to imagine that someone actually thought that marriage was somehow less sanctified if people of the same sex could marry. It will be hard to imagine that someone thought selling a cake might infringe on their religious freedom. It will be as hard to imagine that civil rights had anything to do with religion as it is hard to imagine now that religious freedom had anything to do with DE-segregation of the United States in the 1960's.