I might have made my last trip to Birmingham, Alabama this past weekend. My oldest son lives there, but he’s getting ready to move on; to continue his life journey in Seattle, Washington. His partner has an opportunity to continue Graduate school there so they will both be moving this August; and as all you mama’s out there know, Seattle is a long, long way from home.
I traveled with my youngest son and his girlfriend for the trip so I was not alone, nor was I allowed to drive. I asked my son at several different points, coming and going, would he like a rest, for me to take over and drive. At all times, his answer was “I would rather drive while sleeping than let you at the wheel”. I have no idea why he says such things, I've gotten him everywhere he ever needed to be all of his life without any accidents occurring; it must be a man thing.
This weekend I took the opportunity to see exactly what Birmingham had to offer. We saw and did a lot, but the one thing that stayed with me the most was when we toured the Civil Rights Institute Museum which was both amazing and sad. There were films that gave very vivid descriptions of life in that time and none of the words made me very proud. We were the only Caucasians taking that tour, and I have to say in all honesty; I felt very out of place. It was one of the first times in my memory, other than large social events which always make me feel out of place, that I could remember feeling that way; which of course set my mind to thinking about those feelings and why.
Not being admitted to restaurants, public restrooms, drinking out of different water fountains and sitting in the back of buses, all in the name of “you don’t belong here”. Being called names that are not your own as identification, looked down upon, and treated with cruelty and hatred are not anything I have ever had to endure or experience. But in that moment of time, sitting in that museum, I imagined how humiliated, degraded, and inhuman African Americans must have felt. I felt ashamed and heartbroken just sitting there watching the films then touring the museum.
The experience for me was about acceptance of all mankind. Not necessarily who or what you believe in, but acceptance that all living men and women have a right to be here and experience life in their own way. To live with and love whom they choose, not who we think they should, to dress differently than our minds may say, and adorn their bodies with the symbols that they believe most represent their hearts and thoughts, no matter that you or I would not. It is not, nor has it ever been, our place to judge. The sooner we all come to that realization, the more peace we will all find.