Mar 30, 2023

A Disney Movie About Ruby Bridges is Under Review by a Florida School District Transcript

A Disney Movie About Ruby Bridges is Under Review by a Florida School District Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsDisneyA Disney Movie About Ruby Bridges is Under Review by a Florida School District Transcript

“Ruby Bridges,” a film about a Black first grader who integrated an all-White elementary school in the South, is under review in a Florida school district after a parent objected to the movie. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1 (00:03):

The Disney movie tells the story of Ruby Bridges, the six-year-old first-grader who became the target of hatred and racism when she integrated an all-white elementary school in New Orleans in 1960. It is now the latest flashpoint over instructional materials as the state of Florida limits how lessons on race, sexuality, and gender are taught in the classroom. The PG-rated movie is now under review by Pinellas County Schools in Florida, a review that stems from a complaint by a parent of a second-grader asking it be removed from the school’s list of approved films. The North Shore Elementary parent, whose name was redacted, and the complaint form by the district, says the movie is not age-appropriate, spelling out objections to the use of racial slurs, and that the movie could teach students that white people hate Black people and is more appropriate for eighth-graders. It’s not the first time some parents have objected to how the story of Ruby Bridges is taught in the classroom. In 2021, in Tennessee, one mom told CNN.

Robin Steenman (01:03):

All this curriculum highlights is the mean white people and how she’s victimized, and it speaks to nothing of the good.

Ruby Bridges (01:11):

So when I share my experiences, my story in these books, I share our shared history, good, bad, and ugly.

Speaker 1 (01:20):

That’s what Bridges herself told a US House committee last year. According to the Florida District, the movie will not be shown at this particular school for the rest of the year, but is still available at other schools in the district and in the district’s movie library, and will now go through the formal objection process to review challenged material per district policy.

Speaker 4 (01:42):

Come on, Ruby.

Speaker 1 (01:43):

No word on how long the review will take to complete.

Leyla Santiago (01:50):

And context here, this is the same Florida school district that in January pulled Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison’s Bluest Eye when a parent complained about it and it was reviewed from officials in January. That book was pulled from high school libraries. Pam.

Pamela Brown (02:08):

All right, Leyla Santiago, thank you so much. Toni Ann Johnson was the screenwriter for Ruby Bridges and she joins us now. Toni Ann, what is your reaction to your film now being under review in Florida?

Toni Ann Johnson (02:22):

I think it’s unfortunate. I think it’s too bad that one parent had the ability to stop other children from seeing the film for the rest of the year. And I think it’s an overreaction, but it’s not surprising because it seems like it’s part of the Stop WOKE Act and the parents’ rights movement, which gives parents unfortunately that power.

Pamela Brown (02:45):

You’ve said that when you were six, that is when you were first called the N word. What would you say to this parent who argue second-graders are too young to learn about racism?

Toni Ann Johnson (02:58):

I think that second-graders have been seeing the film and I’ve been told by teachers that it works for teachers as a teaching school. And if a six-year-old is old enough to be called the N word and has to understand what that means, then second-graders are old enough to learn what it means and to learn about the history of racism in this country.

Pamela Brown (03:20):

And you say that what this issue really comes down to is a parent feeling entitled to impose his or her will on other parents by not wanting teachers to show this film to the kids in their class. Tell us a little bit more about why you see it that way.

Toni Ann Johnson (03:39):

Well, I’ve expanded my views about how I see it because I understand a little bit more about the parents’ rights movement, which I think is definitely coming out of the Stop WOKE Act, which is limiting what can be taught in the classrooms, limiting race-inclusive instruction. So I think it’s intentional, it’s by design, but one parent should not have the right to just say, “I don’t think this is right,” and then everybody has to abide by that. My parents weren’t able to do that. I think this is a privilege that Black parents don’t have. Black parents aren’t able to just march into the school and say, “I don’t like this movie so nobody can watch this movie for the rest of the year.” That’s a privilege that we don’t have. I had to watch a lot of things that I didn’t like. I didn’t have that choice.

Pamela Brown (04:29):

And I think I actually read that there was a book, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, that your parents didn’t want you reading. And so as an accommodation, you didn’t read the book and you were moved to another area when that book was being discussed, right?

Toni Ann Johnson (04:44):

My mother was allowed to opt out of that lesson for me, and I didn’t read that book, but it would not have [inaudible 00:04:51] to her to say, “Nobody can read the book.” But we didn’t have the parental rights movement, we didn’t have the Stop WOKE Act, we didn’t have those rights, and there was nobody trying to limit education for other children. So it was a different time. But I do feel like it’s this is a white parent taking away something that other children in the district could benefit from, and it’s unfair and it’s unnecessary. If one child doesn’t want to watch the film or if one parent doesn’t want their kids to watch the film, that’s fine, don’t watch it. But why are you imposing that on the entire school?

Pamela Brown (05:29):

Do you think that limiting young children’s exposure to racism could make racism worse?

Toni Ann Johnson (05:38):

Yes, because they don’t understand it and then they’re too old. If they don’t get that education and they get out of school, then they can say, “Well, I didn’t understand that racism existed.” Of course it exists, it exists in their school. And this film helps teachers teach the beginnings of the civil rights movement and where race was at that time and how it affected Black children. And I heard in the opening a parent saying that there was nothing in it aside from the bad white people. That is absolutely not true. Watch the film. All the white people are not bad. The film does highlight Black humanity, which a lot of films don’t do. I didn’t have any films like that as a child. There were no films that centered a young Black girl. This film has been around for 25 years, it has worked for 25 years, and it can continue to work. This district is just different.

Pamela Brown (06:37):

Toni Ann Johnson, thank you.

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