The participants in the sketch trivialized the civil rights movement into a “Morgan Freeman-narrated documentary” that allowed students to go to integrated proms and and black people to shop at Wal-Marts in the ghetto.
I only caught the tail end of the sketch, admittedly, but from Exit 16 to Draffenville, along U.S. 68, I kept replaying what I had heard over and over in my mind. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became.
This entire column could be filled with a list of men and women, black and white, who died fighting for civil rights. The most prominent is of course, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., murdered in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
His crime was to hope his children had the same opportunities as white children.
His modus operandi was non-violence, even as riots gripped the nation.
Then we have the Sept. 15, 1963, bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley were all little girls who were preparing to attend the morning service.
They were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Their lives were claimed by hate.
We know names like Medgar Evers, but there are names on this list that may not be familiar. Go to www.splcenter.org/civil-rights-memorial/civil-rights-martyrs and read a few of these tragic stories.
Some people were random victims. Some were fighting to ensure black people had the right to vote and to work, or live lives free from bigotry.
Think about what Rosa Parks’ life must have been like. In one simple act of civil disobedience, she brought the focus of the nation on her shoulders.
She had been active in the NAACP before, but when she refused to give her seat to a white city bus rider on Dec. 1, 1955, her one small action made her a household name.
Then she helped to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Only she knows what harassment and threats she faced. She and her husband lost their jobs. How do you trivialize such moral courage?
Justin Lamb and I were talking a few weeks back. We talked about a woman who was a former slave, then an employee of his ancestors after emancipation. Parenthia “Pone” Harrison was considered a member of his ancestors’ family.
She was buried in an unmarked grave under the cover of night because cemeteries were segregated. Only now, 101 years after her death, has her grave been formally marked.
I asked Justin what became of the black community in Marshall County. It’s no secret Marshall County does not have a large number of black residents, in contrast to neighboring McCracken, Graves, Calloway or Trigg counties.
He told me many were driven away or killed by Night Riders.
I think about how far we have come in just 100 years. Yet, when I hear an ignorant sketch on the radio or a hateful word or comment, I think we still have more work to do.
George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Maybe we should remember what it was like during the days of segregation, and the work and sacrifice of those who fought for civil rights.
It was a bleak period in the history of the nation, and I think – no, I hope we can all say we would never want to see it repeated.