Birmingham Alabama. I would like to say something important here. Something that explains exactly how I felt. But, I really don't know how to do that. I made a point to stop in Birmingham Alabama to visit the Civil Rights Institute. To stand on street corner of the 16th Street Baptist Church, where 4 children were killed. To see the streets where the turning point of the civil-rights movement happened.
The museum was both exactly what I expected and not. An elderly volunteer that day told how his son was the first black boy integrated into the schools in Birmingham. He told about protests and said, "I went to jail. My wife went to jail. My daughter went to jail. My son went to jail. The only one in our house that didn't go to jail was the dog!" He was proud and occasionally hollered out "Yes, Indeed!" The exhibit itself was very good and I was surprised by the amount of space spent on the white people who protested and also died in Birmingham.
And here's where I'm not sure what to say. When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade there was a black boy named Ronald in my class. He was taller than everyone else. He smelled bad and his clothes were dirty and torn. I don't remember who I was in 3rd grade. I remember that I was starstruck but intimidated by Mia. I remember Michael K. taught me how to play chess at recess. I remember that Mrs. Sweat and her timed math tests gave me nightmares. But, I don't remember me. What I do remember is going on a field trip...somewhere.. and having lunch at a park with a pond. Ronald was there and all the kids spread out and something happened that upset me. Kids were calling Ronald names and someone started throwing mud at him and others joined in. They told him he stunk. I actually just had trouble actually typing the word "stunk" because I still feel so wrong. And I remember just standing there. Just watching him be treated in a way that I felt was deeply wrong and doing nothing about it. I certainly didn't stand up for him. I didn't even go and get a teacher. I don't remember what happened to Ronald after that. I don't think he was in my school the next year, or at least, not in my class. I don't know where he is now. This is not a satisfactory story. There is no neat ending.
And Birmingham made me remember all of that in a very intense way. I'm better than I was in 3rd grade. I stood up to my father and his racist comments. I've disagreed with other members of my family. I once stood up to a gigantic scary raging man who was flipping out at two women in Duane Reade for a situation that was ridiculous. But I'm not as good as I could be. I let comments slide too often. Two weeks after visiting Birmingham, I was at a campsite next to four frat boys who were drinking and making a lot of noise. I listened to them curse and laugh and make bodily humor references and sexual references for several hours. I listened to them chug a beer bong. Then, they referred to the inauguration as the in-niggeration, and I called the park services and complained. Honestly, if I hadn't been to Birmingham, I would have just ignored their stupid comments. I've resolved to "let slide" less from my acquaintances, family, and friends. You don't need to agree with me, but you can at least be respectful of the rights of others to live in an environment that is not hostile.
Anyhow, this certainly isn't my usual entertaining "let's see what mess JamieSue has gotten herself into" post. I've completely failed at expressing anything with the sincerity with which I feel it. But, I do feel it. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute has done their job well. You should go there. Whoever you are.