Alicia thought back to a time when she was much younger and was watching a television program called Douglass Edwards with the News. There was a story about a fourteen- year old black boy named Emmett Till who was murdered in a town in Mississippi. He was staying at his uncle Moses Wright’s house when he went to a grocery store with his cousins. There, people said that he whistled at a white woman. The husband of the girl, the husband’s half-brother, and an identity that hadn’t been confirmed later caught up to him, beat him up and shot him. They dropped his body in the Tallahatchie River and drove off, the reporter said.
When Alicia reflected on this story, it reminded her of how terribly mean people can be to each other. “Why doesn’t God stop this?” she wondered. The stories of Emmett Till and Ruby Bridges puzzled Alicia deeply. After all, hadn’t God formed ALL people in His image and likeness? She thought of the Genesis story, which in her Baptist church was proclaimed often:
God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Coming out of her thoughts, Alicia suddenly asked “Where’s Poppa?”
“Poppa’s working,” Momma reminded her.
Poppa worked at the local post office, where he delivered packages. Momma, who worked part-time as a nurse, stayed home with her on Saturdays.
Just then, she heard her father’s voice. “I’m home,” Poppa announced as he came through the front door.
“Poppa, I am so glad you’re home!” Alicia jumped in his arms.
“Alicia, my baby. Let me give you a nice big hug,” Poppa said as he embraced her tightly.
“Poppa, why is there so much hatred and discrimination in the world?”
“Well,” he said, surprised by her question, “I guess it’s because people hate what they don’t understand.”
“Poppa, who am I?” Alicia asked.
“You are a beautiful girl,” Poppa told her.
“Poppa, that’s not what I meant. My utopia is changing,” she said despondently.
Poppa asked her what she meant, and she explained what she had read about Ruby Bridges. “I always thought the world was perfect,” she said. “Now I wonder if it is.”
After thinking about this, Poppa finally responded, “Sweetheart, that is a question you must ask yourself. I don’t know why the utopia that you believe in is changing. But I do know that you will learn from this, and it will help you to grow to be a better person,” he added reassuringly.