US Department of Justice photo

A rightwing Tennessee group has filed a complaint with the state over the Williamson County School District's use of, among other books, Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story, a children's book about the integration of New Orleans schools in 1960. It's written by Ruby Bridges herself, who at the age of six was the first Black student to attend her previously all-white elementary school. The complaint was filed by the recently formed Tennessee chapter of "Moms For Liberty," and claims that the books all violate Tennessee's new law against teaching "critical race theory" in schools.

So much for all the rightwing claims that such laws will still protect the accurate teaching of history, huh? When Ruby Bridges went to her first day of first grade, she was screamed at by racist mobs. But the book she wrote about her experiences is apparently too dangerous for second-graders in 2021.

Should we mention that the book has been used for years with no previous complaints, and that parents and teachers praise the reading curriculum it's part of, called "Wit & Wisdom," for challenging and engaging kids? Oddly, the first complaints came this year, as the Right ramped up its war on any discussion of race in schools.


We'll look a bit more closely at the formal complaint in a moment, but you get a pretty good sense of why the Angry White Moms object to the book from this June 11 story in the Nashville Tennessean. At a May meeting of the Williamson County Commission's education committee, Robin Steenman, the ringleader of the county's chapter of Moms For Censorship, explained why dear little children mustn't read this dangerous story about a Civil Rights hero who's still very much with us (heck, she's on Instagram).

Steenman said that the mention of a "large crowd of angry white people who didn't want Black children in a white school" too harshly delineated between Black and white people, and that the book didn't offer "redemption" at its end.

The Mad Moms also complained about several other books about civil rights, complaining that the teachers' guides include all sorts of inflammatory words for grammar exercises, like "injustice," "unequal," "inequality," "protest," "marching," and "segregation," any one of which we suppose could cause children to melt into a puddle.

The formal complaint about the reading curriculum objects that actual historic photos in Ruby Bridges's book will be dangerous for young readers, mostly because the teacher's guide "tells students to repeatedly focus on and emphasizes the racist images," which apparently has a Lovecraftian power to drive little white kids mad with guilt, or little Black kids mad with resentment and fear of white people.

Pages 2-3 depict photographs of a neighborhood sign that reads "WE WANT WHITE TENANTS IN OUR WHITE COMMUNITY" and a smiling white boy holding a sign that says "We wont [sic] go to school with Negroes." [...]

The complaint is also none too happy about the book's inclusion of that famous Norman Rockwell painting about Bridges's first day of school, "The Problem We All Live With." Here's a photo from the day almost ten years ago when Ms. Bridges went to see the painting hanging in the White House for some reason (probably critical race theory, too).

White House photo by Pete Souza

The Moms really don't like what that painting might do to innocent young children. At least we think it's this painting; they have the title right, but the one they complain about is by someone named "Normal Rockwell." The complaint focuses on the partly obscured graffito of that word on a wall behind young Ruby. The complaint somehow objects to telling kids words can be hurtful, and makes a flatly ridiculous claim that the teacher's guide tells teachers to "segregate" their classes by race:

3. Instructs teacher to point out the N-word in the Normal Rockwell painting on pages 24-25. "Use this opportunity to remind students that racial slurs are words people use to show disrespect and hatred towards people of different races.... People still use this word today as a hateful slur... Reinforce...how words can cause pain. Discuss how words can be used to attack and disrespect people."

4. Instructs the teacher to point out this word whether or not the students notice it on their own, and to then lead a discussion about "emotionally charged language," telling the teacher to not "expect an individual or group to serve as a 'spokesperson for his or her race, gender, or any other group." Guiding a teacher in this manner implies segregation of the classroom into "race, gender, or any other group."

Got that? The teacher's guide warns teachers against assuming any kid will be a spokesperson for their group, and that can ONLY mean the kids are being "segregated"? What utter bullshit.

You can go see other ridiculous claims the complaint makes about a related book about Bridges, again by a direct participant in her story. Child psychologist Robert Coles had volunteered to help Bridges and her family during the integration struggle, and later wrote about Bridges and other kids who integrated schools for The Atlantic. In 1995, he wrote the acclaimed children's book The Story of Ruby Bridges, and don't you go thinking that it's an inspiring story about resilience or any of that! You see, it's designed to tell children that white people are rude and unfair, and even Ruby's prayer is very, very dangerous, somehow:

The last page of the book depicts Ruby praying for God to forgive the (white) "mob,"

because they don't know what they're doing. So You could forgive them, just like You did those folks a long time ago when they said terrible things about You."

That prayer, the Moms explain, is in fact promoting race hatred because it makes "a direct comparison between white people and those that crucified Jesus." Even worse, the book doesn't even mention

the Civil Rights Act of 1964, desegregation, black heroes such as Justice Thurgood Marshall, Justice Clarence Thomas, Jackie Robinson, Morgan Freeman, Gen Colin Powell, Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Secretary Ben Carson or President Barack Obama, or any of the subsequent progress America has made towards a "more perfect union." Instead, 7-8 year-old children are left with a picture of America as a racist country, rife with injustice.

We suppose seeing their own multiracial classmates wouldn't give them any clue about that? Or the teacher might point out that it is not 1960 any more?

Finally, the Coles book is sure to traumatize children because one lesson suggests teachers write their own narrative "from Ruby's perspective," which is some CRT brainwashing torture for sure,

in essence inflicting the psychological distress of Ruby's experience onto present day students. It furthermore instructs students to role play Ruby's experience.

God forbid children learn empathy, because the real agenda is to make white moms go on Glenn Beck's radio show to talk about how children are being subjected to distress and to think white people crucified Jesus, or perhaps Martin Luther King.

Whatever you do, don't mention that Robert Coles has, since then, gone on to be a distinguished professor at Harvard, because that's really the nail in his coffin.

Did someone mention a coffin? Ruby Bridges herself did, on her Insta. We can't let children hear about that.


In conclusion, shame on schools for teaching actual history as written for children by the people who were there. Let's all just talk about how inspiring Ben Carson is, instead. He never made a fuss like that divisive Bridges girl. Or rather, he never had to, in part because of her. Isn't America a wonderful place where everything is good now, and no one needs to dig up all that sad stuff from the past?

Now please tell us more about libs erasing history.

[Proud Black Southerner / Raw Story / Moms For Liberty complaint to Tennessee Department of Education]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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