Confederate flags, oppression, segregation, dehumanization, and disrespect, those are the words that so frequently visited my mind as the bus gradually passed by the capital building in Montgomery, Alabama. Numerous times I have encountered racism at its finest, subtly and not so subtly, but what I saw at the capital building was something I had never seen nor felt before, a feeling that I could not ignore even if I tried. What I am referring to is not something that someone said to me, but rather what is considered ok in the eyes of the leaders of Alabama in 2014. What I am referring to is seeing the confederate flag numerous times inside and outside the state capital building.
Throughout this trip I have continuously heard stories of brave individuals who took the first step of changing the evil ways of society, to make a difference in their environment when that was not the most popular choice. I have seen reenactments of Rosa Parks and her refusal to give up her seat for a white individual, I have spoken with an individual who was a part of the Freedom Riders, and the list goes on. What these selfless individuals did was phenomenal because they, along with thousands of other individuals, were able to change the minds (and hearts) of some individuals who felt blacks deserved the same rights as their white counterparts. But, seeing the confederate flag hanging on a pole outside of the capital building shows me that there are still individuals with the same mindset as the majority of the south had during the civil war. Seeing that flag hanging showed me that those in charge do not care about the feelings of those who it affected, because if they did that flag, along with the flag shown inside the building, would be removed.
What was interesting was listening to the tour guide our group was assigned during the tour of the capital. As the tour guide walked us through the capital I could the sense that the group had become more upset because the questions being asked were not being answered properly or even worse, avoided. I could tell that the group, including myself, was upset because of the justification as to why the flags still remain there today. Hearing two tour guides attempt to justify and argue why was nothing short of hearing a murderer try to justify why he killed an innocent victim. Now, this may seem like a harsh analogy, but I want you to take a second and ponder. I want you to close your eyes and imagine yourself as a black male or female back in the 50’s and 60’s, drinking from a separate (and worse) water fountain, just because of the color of your skin. I want you to imagine entering a restaurant just to be told that you cannot be served because, “We don’t serve your kind here.” I want you to imagine being in fear of your life day-by-day as you walk the streets at night as you attempt to go home from work. Now, open your eyes and try to answer this question: Why should anyone deserve to live this way? The answer is they did not, no one does.
Seeing that flag hanging next to the American flag showed me that the leaders in this area hold the ideals of confederacy in the same realm as the truths of this great country. This needs to come to an end. I may be one person, one person who does not hold much power, one person with little to no credentials. Can you imagine if they had that same mindset? Nothing would have changed. I know that I must take a step back and look at the previous leaders who came before me who ultimately decided enough was enough. Yes, I am one person, but I will be that one person who makes this world a better place one step at a time!