Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

Included on today’s TCA panel on PBS’s new documentary The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross With Henry Louis Gates (along with Gates and journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault) was a grown-up Ruby Bridges, known for being the first black child to attend a public elementary school in the South (1960, age 6, New Orleans). She revealed that she was taught alone in one room for a full year by a teacher from Boston because many of the local teachers refused to teach black kids. “I never missed a day of school and neither did she,” Bridges said.

After the panel, Deadline asked Bridges for her comment about two stories of involving race that have recently dominated the news: The high-profile George Zimmerman case and the less highly-charged instance of Paula Deen confessing under oath to having used the N-word.

On Zimmerman: “Being a mother myself, of young black men and also a mom that’s lost a son to that kind of violence, I believe that anybody who takes a life today needs to be accountable and the justice system needs to work for all of us. I think that race played a part of it [but] I think it was a lot more complicated than that. My feeling is that so many of our kids today we are losing to this violence — we do need to address it.”

On Paula Deen: “I think that race is such a hot-button topic, we have to be very, very careful when we are talking about race. It’s unfortunate that things you say behind closed doors, and make a mistake, are made public — you have to be really careful. Does it mean she’s a racist? Probably not. But I do believe that if [the N-word] offends us so much, no one should use it. Under any circumstances.”