By: Nia Mosley ~Staff Writer~
When one thinks of civil rights the first thought that typically pops into one’s mind is the movement of the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and it being only “back then.” But in reality, Civil Rights is a movement still very much present today.
During my spring break this year, I went on an Alternative Breaks trip to Selma, Alabama. During my trip, I learned the importance of looking back at history to have a deeper understanding of the issues of today. Much of America’s systematic racism comes from the historical background that it has always had regarding people of color. During the trip my group was constantly told to remember the history of oppression (from enslavement to Jim Crow) African Americans had to endure in the United States so that we can be conscious about making sure the country stays away from repeating the same cycle.
The infamous Bloody Sunday March took place in Selma in 1965. The march attempted to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge to go from Selma to Montgomery in order to gain recognition of Jimmy Lee Jackson’s death and voting rights. That event should have been the historical moment that ensured Alabama did not have any more issues with regard to discriminating against Black voters, but when I was there for the annual Jubilee commemorating the march, we said different.
The Secretary of State of Alabama was there and decided to make his speech about the advancement of voting and how the implementation of voter IDs made voting better and makes sure voter fraud does not happen. But the truth is that it is hard for citizens in Alabama, especially African Americans who live in impoverished neighborhoods, to take time off of work, get to a voter ID station if they do not have a vehicle and perform the other steps necessary to obtain a voter ID. Also, it is typically harder to get this demographic of voters to vote in general due to the same circumstances. Voter fraud is not something I believe exists because if it is already hard enough to get people to come out to vote, I don’t understand how and why people could or would go out of their way to find a way to commit voter fraud in the first place.
After talking to many of the activists who are also civil rights attorneys in Selma, I learned that voter IDs are not just implemented in Alabama but also throughout several states in the country – mostly in the historical Black Belt of the South. The issue is massively targeting people of color and poor White people to get them to feel discouraged to vote, and it’s a systematic way to oppress the people who are already experiencing systemic oppression.
After coming back from Alabama I now have a very different perception of civil rights. Civil rights did not end in the ‘60s. The fight for justice and pushing against systemic racism against Black and brown people in the United States continues, and it needs to be recognized.