The Kamala Harris-Ruby Bridges Meme Is Powerful and Polarizing
Bridges integrated schools 60 years ago this week while, in 2020, Harris integrated the vice presidency
A meme of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris juxtaposed against the silhouette of an elementary-age Ruby Bridges has understandably gone viral after history was made last Saturday. For many people, the meme represents the powerful contributions of Black girls and Black women to our very concept of freedom and democracy. Others, however, question the appropriateness of linking the two.
The image, which is a T-shirt design created by artist Bria Goeller, bites off of a treasured Norman Rockwell painting depicting a six-year-old Bridges walking into her first day of school as the first Black child in the then all-White William Frantz Elementary in New Orleans in 1960. Bridges’ image is layered with an image of a high-heeled Harris walking with power and intent. The implied connection between the two trailblazers is that Bridges, as a child, greatly contributed to Harris’ glass-ceiling-shattering ascension to the office of vice president of the United States decades later.
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Last year, Harris, speaking as the potential Democratic presidential candidate, directly invoked the spirit of Bridges.
“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public school and she was bussed to school every day. And that little girl was me,” Harris told President-elect Joe Biden.
In this context, Bridges and the incoming VP can be viewed as comrades in the ongoing war to desegregate this nation’s public schools.