This special series by Reggie Jackson explores his journey across four cities in Alabama, to visit historical sites that many are trying to erase from public memory so the disturbing truth about racism, segregation, and White Supremacy can be forgotten. mkeind.com/alabamajourney
The plan for this trip had been percolating in my heart and mind for a number of years. I had certain expectations of what I wanted to see and how I wanted to experience those places. In the end, the events of 2020 and 2021 made the trip much more important to me.
The racial reckoning that arrived after the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd in 2020 galvanized my views about how we talk about how we as a nation have gotten here. I became much more brutally honest in talking about racism. I saw no reason to soften the blow for those who were uncomfortable with the truth.
I felt compelled to speak truth to power in a way that I had never done before. My mind was consumed 24 hours a day with these thoughts. It led me to write 77 articles in 2020. The racial reckoning has created few real changes on the ground since the protest that spread around the world last year in the wake of the video of George Floyd begging for his life and calling for his mother spread virally last year.
Police officers across the country are still killing unarmed people and getting away with it. Some police officers continue to brutalize civilians without being held accountable.
Politically, a shift has taken place where being openly racist in words and deeds is becoming the norm again. The dog whistle language cannot cover up the attacks on voting rights aimed at people of color. The fight now to teach anything honest about American history is an ongoing battle.
We as a nation have only gone part of the way in this racial reckoning. The journey to redeem America is far from over. We still can’t say the word reparations out loud without someone losing their minds. We still have to prove systemic racism is real to skeptics.
My journey was to affirm to me the truth of the truth I speak. I will be able to speak of this history in a way that I could not before the trip because I have visited the American crime scenes most visible places. I have not been to Tulsa yet, but I will visit there at some point. The crimes against Native Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos have crime scenes as well. If you are members of those communities, take a road trip and visit that history.
In the end, the trip allowed me to see not just the injustices, but also the resiliency and fight that has been so prevalent in the Black community’s history but rarely acknowledged. We are not just victims of American racism, we are the people who’ve fought harder to make America whaat it claims to be than any other group.
The Tuskegee Airmen, the Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham communities showed me on this trip how proud I should be of my people. No one will be able to erase these memories from my heart and soul.
I am forever indebted to those courageous people whose footsteps I walked in on this trip. I must thank them for their sacrifices and continue to fight the good fight because their battles have not won the war for human rights.
It is incumbent upon of of us to make sure we learn this history. It is simply not possible to understand America unless you are willing to be honest. The lies we’ve been told will not do justice to the people harmed in the past. Instead it will cover up their struggles and diminish their existence. We can’t allow those who want to believe lies and teach a mythological American history to prevail.
The journey cemented in my mind the need for all Americans to learn this history. It was not Black history, it was Blacks in history. Our struggles and sacrifices need to be acknowledged and compensated for. The harm done cannot be undone by being dishonest about this history. The evidence of the past misdeeds is there for all of us to see. Don’t be blind and afraid of this history. Embrace it by being willing to deal with the pain as I did on this journey.
- Reggie Jackson: My journey to visit Birmingham, Alabama and the history some want us all to forget
- Reggie Jackson: My journey to visit Selma, Alabama and the history some want us all to forget
- Reggie Jackson: My journey to visit Montgomery, Alabama and the history some want us all to forget
- Reggie Jackson: My journey to visit Tuskegee, Alabama and the history some want us all to forget
- Reggie Jackson: Final thoughts on my journey to visit Alabama and the history some want us all to forget