The Ongoing Fight for Civil Rights by Riley Ries

 

Southern Poverty Law Center

Beginning with Rosa Parks’ iconic refusal to move from her seat at the request of a white man, Montgomery, Alabama became a central hub of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and his congregation lead much of this battle from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, only a block away from the Alabama Capitol Building, where the very laws which oppressed the activists were created and implemented into the Alabama Code. However, while the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery and the United States may have ended four decades ago, the battle for social equality, in America and around the world, is an ever-lasting cause, and Montgomery is again leading that battle. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), located in the Alabama capitol, tracks hate groups across the world and provides legal support for individuals who have been affected by the groups’ actions. Through this legal support, the SPLC seeks to shut down the hate groups, which range from the Ku Klux Klan to anti-LGBTQ rights organizations to the genocidal Hutus of Rwanda, in an effort to promote the civil rights and liberties and security for all peoples. In addition, the SPLC also seeks to spread awareness of the terrible atrocities committed by these hate organizations. Their headquarters in Montgomery contains an exhibit which informs visitors of the heinous crimes committed by some groups and individuals against minorities, such as Emmitt Till who was brutally murdered for supposedly whistling at a white woman, or Billy Jack Gaither, a gay man from Alabama who was beaten and burned alive for being gay. In the past, politicians and activists fought great battles centered around basic human liberties, such as the recognition of slaves as humans and the abolition of slavery, or the or the right of all democratic citizens to cast a vote. The battles fought today, though, while focused on the same principles of the past, target different groups. In America and Europe, China and the Middle East, activists and politicians are fighting for the civil liberties of women, LGBTQ people, and other minority groups. These battles are just as important as those of the past, because if our governments and our peoples continue to oppress others because they are just a little bit different from others, then our world will never be able to truly prosper and we will be stuck in conflict with one another rather than flourish together.

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