Despite living in and around Birmingham my whole life, I have never been to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. (frequent comment)
Being a white female from Alabama, civil rights are not something that I take into account or think about every day. The opportunity to visit this museum really changed the way I think about civil rights in my city and how deep the roots of racism ran through Birmingham
In chapter five of our book, we learn the wide scope of prejudice and discrimination, which is illustrated through those demonstrations. Actually walking through the segregated churches and schools created a more powerful understanding of what it was like for African Americans during that time. We can read about the effects of prejudice, but clearly seeing what it looks like creates a whole other dimension to it as a whole.
A monumental movement deserves a museum with of a similar magnitude. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute delivers. I was totally unaware that an asset of this quality was in Birmingham. I will definitely be using it and recommending it to others more in the future.
Visiting the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute was probably one of the biggest eye-opening places I have been so far in my life. As soon as I entered the building, and went to the first showcase, I could tell that this was a lot more information than what the textbooks tell you in middle school and high school.
The rules of the Jim Crow South and the “separate but equal” institutions that were in place bring to mind the idea of social dominance orientation. All of these policies were enacted to assert that one ingroup was superior to another and as a result, the South and its cultural norms were changed in order to oppress the outgroup, which in this case were people of color.
As I pulled up to the institute my initial feelings were that of fear. I had developed the idea that I would be out of place and each of my actions would be judged for any racist implications. It was not until I entered the gift shop to buy my ticket that I realized that my stereotype threat was self-generated and the staff there was passing no judgment…
I think every young American should be pushed to go to the BCRI at least once, especially with all of the current news that we are going through right now. To see and hear and touch all of those events, just to open their eyes to it. It is so emotional and powerful, and again heart-breaking, but in the best way.
Probably the most haunting display in the institute was the Klan robe. It was one of the most striking displays I have ever seen. I immediately stopped in my tracks. The robe was brightly lit in a ghostly white light. It was carefully displayed in front of a cross and next to a shovel. I felt an overwhelming amount of disgust and fear
looking upon the intimidating figure. As discussed in chapter 5, dehumanization likely plays a large role in the hate crimes committed by the Klan. Since they have an “us against them” mentality they are more likely to see people of other races as objects.
I was particularly interested in the black businesses that arose to meet the needs of their communities. Blacks were obviously an outgroup to whites, so they decided to work and live among their ingroup, fellow black Americans. Instead of being
discriminated against in every aspect of life, oppressed black Americans could find solace and relaxation at a black barbershop, diner, or club. They created an alternative world, free from the prejudice and discrimination they faced on the white side of town.
We hear of Dr. King and Rosa Parks, but not necessarily of the grocery store owner who stood up and allowed blacks and whites to shop at his store. He lost his life for that stance and he deserves to be remembered for his strength. The Civil Rights Institute is such a place where the community of people can be highlighted and the reminder that while the fight for equality may be a slow one it is not a distant one.