How Far We've Come - Geetha
Though I have been to the South before, I have never had an opportunity to do any historical sightseeing until yesterday. We were able to stop in Montgomery, Alabama where we saw the capitol building, the civil rights memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. Seeing these landmarks was significantly more moving than any other American historical landmarks I have ever visited. It was powerful to stand on the spot where Jefferson Davis declared succession from the Union, visit the church where the Montgomery Bus Boycott was planned, and sit outside the Southern Poverty Law Center knowing that Morris Dees was possibly working inside. It was incredible to realize that these different eras in the fight against racism have all had such strong foundations in buildings that are just a few blocks from one another.
I would like to say that seeing these different buildings made me hopeful about the progress that has been made over the years. It is definitely a huge step to go from fighting a war over slavery to suing the Klan for monetary damages. But I can’t say that I felt that hope. How could I feel hopeful when the capitol building—a government funded institution—is surrounded by statues and monuments memorializing the Confederacy? Or when there has to be a security guard stationed outside the Southern Poverty Law Center? Maybe we have come a long way, as textbooks and social convention would have us believe, but I think we need to take a more honest look at what kinds of progress has been made and what progress is still left. While slavery is not still around, how are people of color used in the workforce today? Although a lot of civil rights legislation has been passed, how well is it being enforced? I feel like we do a lot of patting ourselves on the back about “how far we’ve come” without being honest or critical about what our progress means and what it indicates for the still remaining struggles.