This week, the university kicked off its three-month celebration of the Freedom Rides and Dr. James Farmer with the installation and unveiling of the Freedom Rides Exhibit in Ball Circle.
Although it is good to commemorate the great strides civil rights activists have made over the past fifty years, the struggle is by no means over.
This celebration arrives at a time when it is important to remember this part of American social history because some of these civil liberties are being challenged.
Last Thursday, conservative legal activists argued against the nation’s landmark Voting Rights Act before a federal district judge in Washington.
The lawsuit, initiated by lawmakers in Shelby County, Ala., revives a constitutional challenge aimed at the heart of the 1965 law, a challenge that has come before the Supreme Court before and that analysts called the most important issue of the year in 2009.
The Washington Post reported last week that in the lawsuit, filed last April, attorneys for Shelby County stated, “There can be no question that the VRA ushered in long-overdue changes in electoral opportunities for minorities throughout the Deep South.”
They also wrote, “it is no longer constitutionally justifiable for Congress to arbitrarily impose on Shelby County and other covered jurisdictions disfavored treatment . . . without a legislative record showing that [they] are still engaged in the type of ‘unremitting and ingenious defiance of the Constitution’ that justified enactment of the VRA in 1965.”
However, it is too soon to dismantle what measures were put in place to protect civil liberties for every American citizen.
The celebration itself falls on the 150th anniversary of the civil war, a charged anniversary throughout the south. The fact that this is still celebrated is a testament that the legacy of slavery and institutional racism are still alive.
Understanding this, and not pretending that the entire population is past the point of seeing race is a premature assumption.
Even the most fundamental gains like integration of school have also been challenged in recent years. But letting integration fall by the wayside not only encourages racial exceptionalism, it destroys the foundation of diversity and acceptance.