Posts Tagged ‘ Day 8 ’
By Zilong Wang
As we travel through the southern states in America, we are greeted with the famous southern hospitality. We are almost surprised by the warm welcome in Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, etc. At the same time of being thankful to people’s niceness, I can’t help thinking: how could these people be the same mob that had ruthlessly beaten the Freedom Riders and burned buses in 1961, not to mention the lynchings and the whole institution of racial crime? In the end, the Southerners are also people who love their families and care about their children. How could this love be translated into cruelty and hatred to some other people?
To answer this question, let us fast forward our clock by 50 years. Now we all think of ourselves as pretty nice people, but this is what our grandchildren will ask us in the year 2061: “Grandpa, how could you have damaged our earth so badly fifty years ago, and leave me with no choice and no future? How could you have allowed your government to kill so many people in countries far, far away in name of democracy? Don’t you know that every time you fill the gas tank of your SUV, you are overdrafting our energy future, and fueling your car with the blood of thousands of soldiers and millions of innocent people in the Middle East?” In fifty years, our grandchildren will look at our life and society in 2011 with shock and disgust: shocked by our consumerism and indifference to the environment, disgusted by our self-righteousness and inaction. Our grandchildren will ask, “Grandpa, how come you did nothing to help despite the repeated warnings from so many people?”
Faced with our grandchildren’s questions, what will be our answer? Will we regret, will we be shamed? Are we going to be the devil that we are condemning now? Are we already the devil that we are trying to fight?
By Kaitlyn Whiteside
I came on the ride as a history major; I’ll leave as a patriot.
My fascination with the civil rights movement started in 2009 when I began an independent research project on the desegregation of Chattanooga, TN. I continued to study the evolution of the expanding movement during the rest of my time at Georgia Tech as I engaged more and more both inside and outside the classroom. This year, as Vice President of Campus Affairs for the Student Government Association, I initiated and organized a campus-wide event focused on civility and inclusion attended by over 300 students. I also drafted a proposal advocating for a campus cultural center at Georgia Tech.
And yet, for the most part, my involvement was simply surface level. I didn’t truly understand the potential impact that I, or my projects, could have. I went through the motions, implementing changes that I thought were necessary but without the overwhelming passion that my fellow student freedom riders seem to possess. For that, I thank them. I thank them because they’ve inspired me in ways that I didn’t expect, inciting energy and desire that I forgot I could have. I’m not sure if it is the environment, the diversity of the group, or simply the awe-inspiring presence of the original Freedom Riders, but something is in the air that allows a free-flowing exchange of ideas that is unlike any experience I’ve ever had the opportunity to take part in.
While I won’t be going back to make sweeping changes on my campus, I hope that the lessons I learned here will take root in my life and evolve into the same sort of intoxicating passion that allowed the 1961 Riders to risk their lives to “get on the bus.”
By Karl Kumodzi
We arrived in Birmingham, Alabama today and visited the historic 16th Street Baptist Church. At 10:22 a.m. on September 15th, 1963 a bomb went off inside the church, killing four little girls who were attending Sunday school. We sat in the pews of the very same church today and watched a video recounting the bombing and the national response it got. As I sat there, I found myself thinking the very same thoughts I had when I first learned of this bombing in a high school history class – how could someone bring themselves to plant a bomb in a church?
The bomb was planted by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Ironically, the Klan can be classified as a radical Christian group. I have a hard time wrapping my head around how any Christian group, even a radical one, can bomb a Christian church while people are worshiping inside. It’s fascinating that the crusades, the holocaust, and slavery were all defended using religion. It is even more fascinating that during slavery and segregation, the oppressed used the very same religion to find hope and to fight back. The KKK uses the same text to terrorize and oppress that African Americans used to justify equality and nonviolence. As I sat in those pews today, we sang and danced to old freedom songs and church music. Somewhere in the middle of the experience, it hit me. I felt why demonstrators had the courage to march, sit in, and ride the bus. I knew that in that community, with those beliefs, and the networks, resources, and organizing power that laid in the church, anything was possible. Somewhere between singing about Jesus’ love and “We Shall Overcome,” I understood why a young person like me would risk his or her life to change an unjust status quo. Faith in the promise of the word, coupled with the rising tensions of the time, and reinforced by a community ready to take action would move anyone to act for justice.
Religion can be used for good or for evil. I’d like to think that its use for good is a correct interpretation, and its use for evil is a false one. I’d like to think that the feeling that overcame me in church today and made me want to take action is truer than a similar religious feeling overcoming Hitler or a Klan member and inspiring them to take action. I’d like to think that slaves interpreted the bible right, and slave masters interpreted it wrong. However, I cannot know for certain. One thing does give me hope, and it is this: In every case I have mentioned so far, the good interpretation of religion has always outlasted the evil one. Perhaps this means that it just takes a little while to get to the truth, and that what we see as the good interpretation is indeed truth. Either way, deep down in my gut I know that the feeling I had was true, and very few radical interpretations can sway me from it.