This trip and course through The South taught me many things and if anything it taught me that there is still much that needs to be done. I think the most important thing to realize is that the law can only do so much in these kinds of situations. A discussion that will stick with me for a long time is one had on our last Monday. The discussion centered around the successes and failures of The Civil Rights Movements and the effectiveness of the Freedom Rides. Everything that occurred from the death of Emmitt Till in 1955 to the passing of The Civil Rights Movement in 1964 to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 were tremendous steps forward in a fight that will hopefully not be continued much longer.
It is clear that what remains is not a policy problem but rather a societal problem. When in Selma it became very clear to me that there was still a problem, the public school, where the black children attended, was being taken over by the state while the the private school, which according to a local source was where all the white children went, was doing fine. There was still segregation within the neighborhoods, where blacks lived in the projects and parts of town which were falling apart while the white towns people lived in much nicer homes out of view of the town. The dividing line being the road that led to the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
A short while later while watching video on the Chicago housing marches we discussed how segregation was not simply a Southern Problem. Segregation was an everywhere problem but the heat was brought to the South because of their extreme reactions to some of the new laws passed. History seemed to be told by the North about the horrible South and their backwards ways when in fact one of the biggest sprawling cities in the North was treating black citizens just as bad as Southerners were treating black citizens. It hit me immediately, racism and segregation was not ended by the Civil Rights Movement or the passing of The Civil Rights Act, it was only made illegal. But of course there were always loopholes and Chicago found them and so did many other states. Disparate Impact claims (Policy that is discriminatory based on a disproportionate adverse affect on a population based on race, sex, religion or familial status where there is no legitimate reason for discrimination) are still being filed and people are still being segregated and systematically oppressed but through legal loopholes.
The discussion had on our last Monday simply made it very clear that so much has been accomplished but to stop when the law is passed simply does not get the job done. It is the last few steps that will truly make a difference and make the policies that were put into place in the 1960’s actually mean that segregation in America is done away with. There has been too much effort by young men and women to grow complacent in how far we have come when there is still so much further to go.