44 years a go a six year old girl in America was the subject of racism and abuse that left me speechless today, the same day that a poll of conservative activists said that 41% would welcome a coalition with UKIP!
I opened my phone on the train to discover it's "Ruby Bridges" day, no, me either! So I did a search......
I began reading a story of bravery and courage from a child that moved and engrossed me so much that I missed my normal stop and ended up in a place called "Norbiton!"
The place lies between Surbiton and Norbury and as I got off the train it became quickly apparent that the reason they couldn't find an individual name for this little place and had to borrow it from two other places is because not much happens here, including, after a 40 minute wait in the freezing cold, trains going back to my last stop!
Ruby was six years old in 1960 and had a skin colour different to anyone else's in her community, she was a child known on the outside as "Black" but on the inside just a child, the same as any other! It was so ruled by a court that she had to attend a school, but in the American South, it was an "All White" school.
When attending her "All white" school she had to be escorted by federal marshals. "White" parents withdrew their kids from the same school, her father lost his job and they lived in fear and ridicule merely for the colour of their skin! As a young six year old, Ruby climbed the steps of her school surrounded by men with guns to protect her listening to the chants of the white parents gathered :
"Two, Four, Six , Eight, We don't want to integrate"
As a 44 year old man I sat on a train as it passed my stop, sad, angry but most of all ashamed that people who's skin happens to be the same colour as mine could behave in such an evil and uncaring way against not only a human being but a child, a six year old child! Just horrible and shameful!
Ruby though stuck her ground, her mother didn't want to take her to school so great was her fear, but Ruby sat, with the threat of being poisoned and hurt, on her own, in a classroom, on a different floor to all "The White Kids!" As six year old she made the choice to not be defeated and go to a place she loved - "School!"
Ruby could not understand why she was different, why she was kept away from children in the same school, why she was segregated, tormented, abused, chanted at and ruled as "Lower class" She understood the easy route was to stay at home with her mother, but Ruby wanted to go to school and go she did under circumstances that even I as an adult find hard to comprehend!
A man called Dr Coles, took an interest in Ruby and why she just kept going back to school under such fearful circumstances and he and his wife took the very brave step of supporting her and her family and stood with them through what must have been very scary times.
This six year olds defiance against evil inspired so many children to follow and her actions as a mere six year old set out change, her bravery and defiance against the norm shone through and today, some 44 years later she effected me, a man thousands of miles away and separated by a generation!
Racism is taught, you are not born with it and it's not a disease, you learn it and that is a fact! Its the same as homophobia and any other form of discrimination and it is wrong, on every level. I believe it is also born out of a place of fear, fear of the unknown, fear of someone being "Different" Honestly, we have nothing to fear, Nothing!
No wonder communities are still angry, no wonder kids still feel unable to trust, no wonder memories are still alive, Ruby's suffering happened in my lifetime and only a dot away in the calender of the universe!
Because somebody is different it does not ever mean they are less than, I would argue they are special. Because someone is gay, black, white, disfigured, female, male, Chinese, Indian or Muslim. Jewish, Arabic, Eastern European, African or in a wheelchair or old they are not any more or any less than the others surrounded around them, they are human, they have feelings, strength and opinion!
So my message to ANY elected Conservative MP who would welcome a coalition with UKIP, why not stand outside a school full of children and sing "Two, Four, Six, Eight. ..and then take yourself to a different floor of the house of commons and all hug each other at how uninspiring and how narrow minded you really are, better still, I'll drive you all to a cold station called "Norbiton" and you can all have a good old pat on the back from each other for taking this great country back to 1960 and back to a place of much shame!
Lead, change and inspire this generation, welcome, support, encourage and give opportunity and goals to everyone regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation, that's the land I want to live in!
Join with UKIP just to get into government is uninspiring, weak, gutless and frankly insulting to me as a member of this country! Remember it was a UKIP member who told us the floods had come because God was angry at the "Gays"
Thank you again Ruby for following your heart and inspiring me to write this little blog - Thank you for being different, brave and a leader not a follower and for me discovering a place called "Norbiton" by way of a train, a tram and a walk!
Thank you for reading.