The Civil Rights Tour continues! A lot has been jam packed into the first few days, visiting Greensboro, NC and Atlanta, GA. In addition to a lot of sites visited, I've done a good chunk of reading and documentary-watching on the forever long bus rides.
When any serious time is given to really experiencing and learning about the Civil Rights Movement, it's hard not to quickly be confronted with the thought, "How could people be so hateful, so blind, so stubborn?" The inhumane words, actions, and systems were horrifying.
After that initial question, a couple other series of questions quickly follow.
The first is this: "What kind of life would I have lead if I were transported to the 50's/60's? If I was a white student growing up in the Midwest, would I have been compelled to act? How about if I was an African-American in the South, would I have had the courage to fight the system, and to do so non-violently?"
I'm ashamed when I think about the honest answers.
The second question, and perhaps the more haunting, is this: "What systems do I turn a blind eye towards in order to live the life I do today?"
Dr. Eskew (a GSU professor we heard from today) elaborated on the economic and political context of Birmingham leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. In many ways, segregation and poor worker treatment was utilized to make the city successful at producing iron. It was at that point that Dr. Eskew asked what unjust systems are we a part of today, where are our iPhones or Nike shoes produced? (Hint: probably not in some local, worker-friendly environment.)
It's difficult dealing with internal prejudices that effect those in my closer community. When I start to think about the systems that I belong to that inhumanely disregard others across the globe, it starts to become a little overwhelming. Yet I think this is an appropriate emotional response. And I remain hopeful, surrounded by beautiful examples within the Civil Rights Movement where both personal and systematic injustices were overcome.