This pass weekend, some of us got the opportunity to travel to Alabama for a night to do a civil rights tour. For those of you who are not aware of the Civil Rights Movement, a brief summary can describe it as groups of people coming together to fight for equality in civil rights. In the sixties, this mostly pertained to racist values that divided black and white individuals. Other’s have blogged briefly about the background of the trip, but what I’d like to highlight are the injustices that continue to plague us today. That is not to say that we have no come leaps and bounds from what this remarkable people have done – the strength and tenacity that fills literally every story we heard this weekend has empowered our societies to push forward in movements towards equal rights in other realms. Sexism, classism and ableism are just a few areas that have come leaps and bounds as a result of those who fought for civil rights, but we still have miles to go.
You see, as fascinating and inspiring as this trip was, it als highlighted the backwards thought process of some of our institutions. It’s infuriating to say the least. Case in point: it sounds great to hear that men and women who committed hate crimes and brutal murders throughout the sixties are now being charged and in some cases incarcerated. What I bet you didnt know, is that IF prison is even an outcome of these long over-due trials, some of these people, or rather mass murderers, are getting as little as six months.
The inmates we had the opportunity to work with in Stevensville are serving two years for ‘dealing’ less than a pound of weed in some cases. Hmmm..cold blooded murder that stems from an irrational hatred compared to a man getting caught with a little natural herb on him. Seems appropriate..ha. If that doesn’t grind your gears, think of it this way. Anyone who is getting incarcerated for the hate crimes from the sixties have had the opportunity to live their life essentially. So really, what’s six months in jail? The young men we were working with, are trying to make a life (and, I would suggest that perhaps there’s a reason why they were dealing i.e. to make ends eat or provide for a family, if they were in fact even dealing at all) and have their family, dignity and rights stripped of them the same way those living through the civil rights movement did.
This post is a little less sunny than the last I suppose, but I think with a positive attitude its also important to remember the reality of things. There will always be multiple realities, but its our job to deconstruct that and pick it apart. It seems a little counter productive to run these frameworks hand in hand. Its the questioning the sparks change, and the change that brings the positivism.