We can read that Civil Rights activists marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, (Bloody Sunday) and were beaten and tear-gassed by state troopers and county militia on the other side, but that’s different than walking the bridge in silence today and trying to imagine what the marchers were thinking, not knowing what awaited them on the other side.
We can read that many African Americans were beaten because of the color of their skin, but that’s different than hearing a Black woman relate how her church-going parents were severely beaten and survived only because of their resiliency.
We can read that White supremacy dictated that a Black man never, ever look a White woman in the face, but that’s different than hearing an aging Black activist describe that crime as “eye-ball rape.”
We can read and know that racism continues today, but that’s different than seeing vandalism and bullet holes in the gravestones of Civil Rights martyrs James Chaney (murdered 1964) and Jimmie Lee Jackson (murdered 1965).
We can read all we want, but reading is so different than learning first-hand from people who experienced violence in the 1960s—and who remind us that, yes, racism does continue today.
-- by Robert Weir