Yesterday we visited places such as the Rosa Parks Museum, MLK Parsonage, and Southern Poverty Law Center, but the most eventful location by far was the Alabama State Capital. From the outside of the capital, the confederate memorial monument was the most visible. The monument was undoubtably racist, and should have foreshadowed what was within. The monument featured certain historic figures in Alabama, all white, and the four facades featured poems such as “the knightliest of the knightly race who since the days of old, have kept the lamp of chivalry alight in hearts of gold” which served as a sort of catalyst as we started the tour. As we began the tour, racial undertones were evident. The confederate flag was hanging alongside the american flag and the depictions of ‘happy slaves’ were appalling.
As we started to question the tour guides, I realized how much of an integral part in some cultures racism truly is. The tour guides didn’t seem to be cognizant of the extent of racism in the capital building even when our concerns were brought to the surface. We left the capital feeling disgusted and discouraged, but that quickly changed when we stepped outside its walls.
As we walked out of the building, we saw a group of people walking toward the capital with a colorful wreath. I soon found out that among those in the group was the Governor of Alabama as well as several who had participated in the march to Selma so long ago. As they climbed the steps, they placed the wreath in front of the capital building and began to sing. This moment was truly definitive for me; it marked the beauty and importance of learning history, but also keeping it alive. Looking around, I observed some weeping and others looking pensive, but all there that day held a deep respect for those who fought so bravely for the rights we have today.
I spoke with some of the participants when the memorial ended, and their stories were absolutely amazing. Most spoke of the violence they received from state troopers or the hatred they experienced while during the march, but all spoke of the extreme sense of pride and achievement they felt when reflecting on their experience. This spoke volumes to me, because it solidified to me that although social justice seems impossible and extremely discouraging in the moment, those who preserve will overcome. In today’s society, it seems as though all of the issues are irrevocable or impossible to correct, but conversations with those so heavily involved in the greatest social movement in American history reminded me that the struggle for justice and freedom is nothing short of rewarding.
American history is incredibly rich, and it infuriated me that as prestigious of a place as the Alabama state capital turned a blind eye to a huge part of our history. I think that taking this trip has opened my eyes to the amount of denial and ignorance that still is present in America. I’m grateful that I have been afforded the opportunities to learn about the civil rights via this pilgrimage and strive to teach others what I’ve learned.
*Sorry this post is late! My computer was dodgy the last half of the trip.