Ecstasy is the best way of describing my feeling when I signed up for this class. Before entering college, I seldom traveled, and this class was the best opportunity to travel.As a northerner, I never envisioned enrolling in a southern university, let alone going on a nine-day road trip through the Deep South. However, I have always been open to new experiences that put me outside of my comfort zone. As a result, I can say the South has had its effect on me, as my mom points out whenever I say “ma’am” or “y’all.”
I cannot imagine a better way to be introduced to the Deep South than through this journey. Prior to the class, I did not know there were nearly as many museums dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement. I can say without a doubt that I had strong emotional responses at every stop. I could not stop thinking about my family. My sister is biracial, and it terrifies me that the community might have persecuted her as well as her father, and our mother. We would have lived in fear, and it makes me realize that people still live in fear and there are still many hateful people in the world.
However, I also realized that there were so many sympathetic people of every race. During the Freedom Rides, people came from all over the country (and other countries) to risk their lives on buses for the simple right of integrated travel. One of the most heartwarming and surprising facts that I learned was about the 12-year-old girl in Anniston, Alabama who brought water out to the freedom riders as they were choking on smoke. This girl, whose father was complicit in the bus bombing, knew that people needed help and put race aside in order to do what needed.
I wish I could say that I understand why people had such an issue with integration; it does not make sense to me. I know that people were afraid of miscegenation and white women losing their “racial purity,” but sitting next to a black man in school or on the bus does not automatically result in pregnancy. I did learn, however, that I do not need to understand why people have those opinions and perspectives. Rather, it is my job to stop injustices when I see them and to try to change hearts and minds. After all, I did make a pledge and I intend to keep that pledge.