The National Memorial for Peace and Justice opens today in Montgomery, Alabama. From that name you might be surprised that it is, as the New York Times calls it, A Lynching Memorial. That article begins:
“In a plain brown building sits an office run by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, a place for people who have been held accountable for their crimes and duly expressed remorse.
Just a few yards up the street lies a different kind of rehabilitation center, for a country that has not been held to nearly the same standard.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opens Thursday on a six-acre site overlooking the Alabama State Capitol, is dedicated to the victims of American white supremacy. And it demands a reckoning with one of the nation’s least recognized atrocities: the lynching of thousands of black people in a decades-long campaign of racist terror.”
I am reminded of the chant we often use when demonstrating on the streets, “No Justice, No Peace”. I don’t believe we can make progress for peace and justice until we finally acknowledge our country’s history related to enslavement of Black people, and the theft of land from, and genocide of Native Americans for several reasons. One is that the history we choose to believe, and continue to teach our children, does not own up to what was actually done in the past. Many people who consider themselves White feel affronted by this idea, and don’t want to hear about it now. Another reason is that now, in our time, these same attitudes persist, and continue to be embedded in not only many people’s beliefs, and influence their actions, but continue to influence governmental policies.
Among other things Montgomery was the site of the bus boycott, and the church bombing that killed four children, and where Martin Luther King Jr’s house was bombed.
Until we achieve justice for people of color and Native Americans, we will not have peace. That is why I think the name of this new memorial, National Memorial for Peace and Justice, is so appropriate.
There will be many stories about the Memorial on this opening day. I previously wrote a fuller description of the Memorial itself, including the 60 Minutes segment by Oprah Winfrey.