Those are the primary emotions I felt on the cold afternoon of December 12, as I walked out of the small theater at the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Alabama. Yes, I knew the horrifying story of Emmett Till's murder. I knew about Viola Liuzzo, Medgar Evers and Bloody Sunday. I even knew about the memorial dedicated to them and about 36 other people who had died as a result of Jim Crow racism.
What I didn't expect was the challenge placed in front of me after viewing the film Faces in the Water, a film that tells the story of the memorial and the people and events that inspired it. As the film closes, various voice-overs provide people's responses to the film and the memorial, the most striking of which (to me) states the following: "Remembering is not enough."
It's not enough to remember the hundreds of murders that went unsolved during the Civil Rights era and beyond strictly because of hatred and bigotry. It's not even enough to feel bad about those hate crimes and instances of discrimination--racial, gendered, religious or otherwise--that occur today for those same reasons. As I proceeded from that theater into the next room, deep in thought, I came face-to-face with the Wall of Tolerance, where I was invited to take this pledge, to do more than just remember:
By placing my name on the Wall of Tolerance, I pledge to take a stand against hate, injustice and intolerance. I will work in my daily life for justice, equality and human rights - the ideals for which the Civil Rights martyrs died.
Thinking about my daily life--my children, my nieces and nephews, my work, this blog--I knew that I might not ever participate in a Selma-to-Montgomery type of march or risk my life to ensure that others can vote. But I can step in when I see the children and the adults in my life subscribing to and spreading bigoted ideologies. I can use my classroom or cubicle or wherever I work to infuse "work-related material" with ideas that oppose prejudice and bias. I can use this blog to continue spreading the values of inclusion and people's inherent dignity.
|My name added to the Wall of Tolerance|
With these thoughts in mind, I added my name to the wall, and its largeness was convicting. I then walked outside to see and touch the memorial itself. I hesitated to put my fingers into the chilly water, but I did it anyway and thought about the immeasurable sacrifices those martyrs made in the name of doing what is right. In 2013, I will seek out ways, even small ways, that I can carry on that legacy. I hope you will too. Our children need us to do so and to teach them to do it as well.
I'm intrigued to know: what are some bigoted ideas you've seen from children lately? Where do you think they got those ideas, and what do you think can be done to counteract them?