On January 9-11th, all of the Humanities class visited Montgomery, Alabama. Throughout the trip, a thought lingered in my mind: why do we value some people more than others and what aspects of society led us to live like this? How do humans organize and express themselves? During the experience, I questioned my identity and how I have contributed to issues of racial inequality in the U.S. I have chosen these images as instances where I questioned my identity. The first is a picture of John Allan Myeth, a confederate soldier. This statue is placed in front of the capitol building. Seeing this statue was shocking; it is a clear representation of white supremacy and a monument to the Civil War. While I was staring at this pro-confederate statue, I realized that people still hold confederate values true to heart and we, as a country, are still a long way from racial equality. Although it is uncomfortable, I have to recognize my own role in these problems that we are experiencing as a nation.
The second image is of the lynching memorial. While we were experiencing this memorial, I was drawn to the fact that some of the victims were listed as ‘unknown’. The fact that they are still nameless is shocking. It is clear that the black community is so devalued that no one even knew the name of the victim. I questioned my white identity throughout this experience because of the violence that is highlighted against the black community. How is it that my people have had such a violent history, yet it is ignored by the majority of the population of the U.S. How do we move past this and learn to accept one another? I’ve never felt more ashamed of my identity then when I was at the lynching memorial. I realized that these were instances of explicit violence based on someone else’s identity that they had no control over.
The third image represents an instance of historical remembrance. The sign described Montgomery’s “commerce” but here someone has clearly crossed out commerce and replaced it with slavery. Those in charge sometimes refuse to acknowledge their gruesome past and here it is clear that the city does not want to contend with their true history. Again, I was shocked that people had the tendency to try to ignore what actually happened and perpetuated a narrative that would paint them in the best possible light. I questioned why people would do this because you clearly cannot change the past. For the third time, I was ashamed of my identity and how I have contributed to this narrative.