Monday, January 7, 2013

Montgomery and the Confederacy

Today, we visited Montgomery, Ala., home to the Capitol and state government.

It was a powerful trip, and we were able to visit the church Martin Luther King Jr. was a lead pastor at for six years and see the spot where Rosa Parks got on the bus and refused to leave her seat. The museum dedicated to her was quite a learning experience.

But the most emotional part of the day, by far, was seeing the inside and surroundings of the state Capitol building. Below is a picture of former Gov. George Wallace, who oversaw much of the resistance to the Civil Rights Movement during his tenure. That portrait is in the main rotunda on the second floor of the Capitol, and will stay there permanently due to a state law requiring it to stay. The tour guide explained it is because he is the state's longest-serving governor.

That's an interesting point. He served a total of 16 years in the office, in four terms (one set of two consecutive). But, does length of service equal worthiness of honor? No. Wallace was a segregationist. He did terrible things while governor. But the state, in 2013, celebrates him in a way they celebrate no one else. Additionally, there is a confederate flag in the background of his portrait. Wallace's first year in office was 1963, just under a century after the Civil War, and the confederacy, ended. Why was this flag ever in the governor's office?

Another question: Why is the flag in the two chambers in the state Capitol? While neither the assembly or senate use the Capitol chambers anymore, both had a confederate flag displayed. The senate chamber had ONLY a confederate flag displayed. The tour guide explained the room was restored to be as it was in 1861. That's cool, showing history and all.

But fourth graders tour that building. They see that confederate flag, and likely come to the understanding that it's a good symbol. It creates a system in which they grow up supporting it, and then the cycle continues.

The cycle needs to end somewhere. It is up to our generation to make changes. The current young generation of Alabamians was likely raised to believe the confederacy was a good thing, or at least some of them were. We need to have conversations with them, and explain why it's not. While it is horrible to glorify the confederacy and what it stood for (slavery, among other things), we cannot blame people who were raised to feel that way. They may not have had the opportunity to think another way, but we need to give it to them.

1 comment:

  1. We will not change History to appease the so called perception that this is offensive. The flags will always be a part of where a new country was formed, like it or not. that's not important