Started from the Bottom Now We’re Back

For a various number of reasons, I’m having a lot of trouble writing this blog post. I think, perhaps, it’s mainly due to the events that happened this week within our nation such as the Supreme Courts ruling on gay marriage and the Charleston shootings (along with other historically black church burnings) that make thinking about my personal progression in Selma so difficult to do.

This week I’m feeling broken and a little hopeless. I would be lying if I said my spirit didn’t crumble every time I learned about another civil rights struggle that so clearly violated basic human rights.

The ruling by the Supreme Court was supposed to mark a progressive and major step toward equality for the LGBTQA community. As unqualified as I am to talk about marriage equality, I still felt myself wondering if the ruling should be celebrated when LBGTQA youth still made up 40% of the homeless youth population. Was marriage equality enough? More than likely, no.

I wanted to be happy and rejoice like the rest of my fellow rainbow colored profile pictures Facebook friends and Instagram followers, but I was honestly scared. Scared not because it was a progressive act, but scared because I didn’t want the general sentiment to change to think that equality had actually been achieved.

In some ways, the Supreme Court’s decision made a cold, disheartening parallel to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other accomplishments during the Civil Rights Movement that allowed people to think that things like Affirmative Action and the white privilege were strange, the unnecessary myths of the past. Instead, “better” ideas of more accountability for crime committing folk quickly replaced the harsher realities of racial discrimination and nearly inevitable consequences of neglected neighborhoods with low socioeconomic status. It allowed people to say things like “I don’t see color” and “It doesn’t matter who you are, if you work for it then you can ____.” I didn’t want the realities of many oppressed peoples to become false, blind notions of equality as declared by certain narratives in textbooks.

In regards to the series of Black church burnings, I felt angry. When the Charleston shooting occurred, there were mass Facebook posts about how terrible and tragic the event was and how the shooter deserved whatever jail time was associated with his crime. So Black lives matter(ed). Sweet. Then, when other church burnings continued, the response and media coverage quickly turned on whether a flag with a nasty past of racial discrimination and Jim Crow laws should be on public buildings and around in general. So black lives didn’t matter. Again.

But where were all the people who wanted to go on status rants about property damage during the Baltimore riots? Not concerned about who was damaging black property, that’s for sure.

When we visited the 16th Street Baptist Church as well as the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum across the street, I was reminded of the bitter history and relationship between institutions of oppression and the oppressed. It seemed as if the only way the oppressors were held accountable for their actions was if there was clear, indisputable evidence of their often violent wrongdoings. Even then, the oppressed were and are expected to demonstrate complaisant, peaceful reactions to treatment that would make anyone angry. It was as if oppressed groups had to prove themselves worthy in order to eliminate injustices. Even then, these efforts too often went unnoticed and ignored.

Connecting the quick change of heart and political stances of the American public to the present day status of Selma left me feeling unsurprised, disappointed, angry and frequently calling my Mom to combat the overwhelming feelings of darkness I felt as a result of the bitter realizations and realities of poor and/or Black Americans. Sometimes I felt nearly suffocated as I read articles and comments of various people completely dismissing concepts of inequality. One out of three Black men were expected to go to prison in their lifetime and I had about four long finger scrolls before I saw a woman with brown skin in a Google search of “beautiful woman.” Anti-blackness sentiments were everywhere and reinforced constantly and consistently.

Fortunately and slightly unfortunately, Karan and I had a lot of time to plan for an Art Camp we’re running in a few weeks. This time encouraged me to get creative with inspiring kid themed activities, lessons and games but also allowed my mind to wander and my logic to ponder the injustices of America (I won’t get started on the racial purging in the Dominican Republic). We solidified awesome Dinosaur and an Express Yourself Around the World themes and were reminded of the real purpose of art camp. It wasn’t all about the art. It was about providing an empowering environment so that dark moments came with a light switch in the form of familial support and activities that allowed for fun and enjoyable expression. As I expressed in my last post, RATCo and the Freedom Foundation are organizations made up of truly wonderful people who will have you going from feeling like you’re on the brink of tears to rolling on the floor, clenching your stomach. I wish everyone had a RATCo/Freedom Foundation family.

But as my Mom says, “when you know the truth about social injustices, you can see the world through a more compassionate lens.” And I’m still trying to balance my compassion with anger and disappointment.

Andeulazia Hughes-Murdock ’18