Thursday, July 11, 2013

Race matters

This past weekend we drove to Birmingham, AL because one of our sons was in the city to take a course for work. We had a great time, ate some great BBQ, and attended a minor league baseball game at the new Birmingham Barons stadium. It was a great place to watch a game. We also visited the Civil Rights Institute downtown across from 16th St Baptist Church. That is the church where a bomb went off on a Sunday morning in 1963 and four young Black girls were killed. There is a plaque outside the church memorializing their lives. It was moving to stand in the city today and think about what it was like then. Inside the Institute we relived that history as we viewed many exhibits depicting the civil rights fight or the fight to keep Blacks from gaining their civil rights. As I toured the exhibits and watched the historic footage of Rosa Parks, the bus boycott in Birmingham, the sit-ins, and children's march that was brutally put down with fire hoses and attack dogs, I was deeply moved. I was a young child in New York when these events took place and unaffected by them. Since then I had studied them and listened to the speeches of Dr. King and other civil rights leaders. But, this past weekend I was standing on the spot, the epicenter of the some of the most climactic events of the civil rights movement. It is said that when tv broadcast video of Bull Connor and his officers turning the hoses and dogs on children, the battle for civil rights was as good as over. Now the nation could see the evil of segregation. As I toured the exhibits with a mixed crowd of white people and black people I wondered what others were thinking. What would it be like as a Black person today to watch those videos, to hear the hatefilled speeches and the just plain stupid racist propaganda that was used to support segregation and to witness again the violence directed at people because of something so basic as the color of one's skin. We have come a long way as a society since the 1960's but we still have a ways to go. The Sunday morning worship hour is still the most segregated hour of the week in most places. In Birmingham this past weekend I was very aware that Race Matters.