An update from Shelbi, a junior human rights major:
Yesterday we left Montgomery, Alabama to head to Jackson, Mississippi. On the way, we stopped in Philadelphia, Mississippi to visit Mt. Zion United Methodist Church. We unloaded the bus, wandered around the property for a few minutes, and eventually made our way inside and took our seats. Two women were there to share their stories with us.
The first woman was the daughter of a man brutally beaten the night of the church burning in 1964. The second woman’s mother and brother were also beaten that dreadful June night. They talked about their families, and they talked about the three Civil Rights activists who where murdered that June: Michael Schwerner (25), Andrew Goodman (21), and James Chaney (21).
The 50th anniversary of the church burning, the beatings, and the murders is coming up. We asked the women if they thought much has changed since then. They said things are unquestionably better than they were, but reminded us that there is a long way to go. They reminded us that not all white people were bad in 1964. They said there were good white people too. Ray then reminded us that good is relative – and that was an extremely important reminder.
There were certainly white people who didn’t beat black people, didn’t burn down churches, didn’t murder people – but if they didn’t say or do anything to stop others from doing those things, can we say they were good people? I do not think we can. Being opposed to racism, discrimination, and bigotry is not enough. We must actively fight racism, discrimination, and bigotry. We must constantly strive to be a voice for the voiceless.