The Need to Pay Attention

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Rory Eggleston Class of 2017
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Prospective Biology & Theater Studies Major

In the past few days, I've traveled to Charlotte, Atlanta, Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham with the 2014 Roots to Rights trip. We've visited a number of Civil Rights monuments and important locations, namely the King Center and MLK's birthplace in Atlanta, the Civil Rights Memorial in the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, and the Voting Rights Museum in Selma. 

It's been a lot to do in a short span of time, but the experience has been nothing but eye-opening and sobering. Walking through museums memorializing those who were murdered, beaten, lynched, abused physically and mentally, I began to fully understand what was being faught for and the sacrifices that thousands of people made to stand up for human rights. For the first time, I've begun to realize that, before now, I've known about the Civil Rights movement, but I haven't understood everything that it represented. It was not just a movement lead by such great people as MLK, Medgar Evers, Coretta King, and Julian Bond, but rather a movement of thousands, from all walks of life, united in nonviolent confrontation against extreme hate and violence. This does not diminish the work of their leaders, but we shouldn't forget those who were killed and injured and who we don't learn about in textbooks, those who raised their voiced against injustice just as surely as MLK, and, perhaps even more importantly, those who were killed not because of protesting or standing up for themselves but because they happened to cross paths with people who hated them for the color of their skin. One of the most profound things that I've heard in the past few days is Mrs. Till's request to give her son, Emmett Till (who was beaten to death for allegedly whistling at a white woman), an open-casket funeral, because she had had enough of the world turning a blind eye to the brutality that African Americans faced on a daily basis. We need to acknowledge and notice that these things are happening, all over the world, and we need to be vocal about it. Not acting is just as bad as actively supporting violence and hate crimes.

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