32 years ago today, a 13 year old named Ryan White was supposed to attend his first day of middle school. He did not. Instead he listened to his classes by phone, because he had H.I.V.
He was a hemophiliac who had contracted H.I.V. through a blood transfusion. Doctors said he posed no risk to other students, but when school opened a few days earlier, over 150 parents had lined up in front of the school to keep Ryan White from entering. Some teachers at the school also joined the parents in their protest.
Ultimately, Ryan won his legal battle to attend school with his peers. Some parents withdrew their kids to go to private schools. Others waited outside the school daily to taunt him, saying things like “We know you are queer.”
Shots were fired through the White’s family window. He was forced to use different utensils to eat, and not allowed to participate in Physical education. The editors and publishers of a local newspaper supported Ryan in their articles and financially. They were ridiculed, subscriptions were cancelled, and they received death threats.
The next school year, Ryan transferred to Cicero, Indiana. There, the principal, Superintendent, and a handful of students waited for Ryan at the front door. They greeted him warmly and lined up to shake his hand.
Ryan lived five years longer than Doctors told him he would. He became a national spokesmen for A.I.D.S., and went a long way towards educating the public about this disease.
Ryan White died March 27, 1990, one month before he was supposed to graduate from high school. In August of 1990, the United States Congress passed the Ryan White AIDS Resources emergency act. (CARE)
He was, and is a hero.
This is not only a story of bravery, but one that should cause
What would you have done?
You would like to think that you would have been one of the kids,
parents, and teachers that were compassionate and supportive to Ryan. You would like to be on the right side of history.
At some point, in some way, you will get your chance.