Quiet heroes, heroes nonetheless

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I have not seen the movie “Selma.” I read reviews saying it is great, and reviews saying it distorts history.

As I said, I haven’t seen it, but I was alive when the Selma march took place. At the time, I was 12 years old and I remember the march being on television.

To a girl my age it seemed far removed from my life. My only memory related to that march happened at my grandmother’s house in Luverne during a big family dinner.

I don’t remember the holiday, but I’m sure it was a holiday because that is when these gatherings took place. On this day, I was in the room that served as my grandparents’ bedroom/den when one of my uncles arrived.

I recall him talking about being in Selma during the march. He was in the National Guard and was there to protect those making the walk to Montgomery.

I don’t remember much except that his words didn’t have a negative feel. There was no anger expressed or racist comments made. He simply talked about what he saw.

In addition to the release of the movie, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of this march, Oprah Winfrey is honoring civil rights icons. I think she is hosting a celebration where she will probably give gifts and shed many tears.

Don’t misunderstand me; it is fine to honor those who did much to change things that needed changing. However, there are people who, in quiet ways, contributed to positive change and some who made a complete turnaround in their thinking about segregation. They probably won’t get a mention at Oprah’s shindig.

Two of those quiet ones were my parents. Their contribution came in the form of how they raised their children. A few weeks ago at our Christmas celebration, my brothers, sisters and I talked about the “rules” when we were children. The two that stood out were — you did not say a curse word and you did not ever use a racial slur or say something nasty about someone because of a difference in skin color. Either one of those got you into trouble.

My daddy believed, taught us and lived by the words of the song, “Jesus loves the little children … red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” Because we heard that from him and from Mother, racism was not part of our childhood experience.

And, because of that, we grew into adults who understood all people deserve the same rights and the same freedoms. Teaching children that we are equal and them seeing their parents living that teaching does as much to change the world as marches and demonstrations I think.

Then there are those who rallied behind the cry of segregation forever until they had an awakening and completely changed their message. One of those was Alabama’s Gov. George C. Wallace. In his later life, he not only apologized for his actions and comments during his early years as governor, he also worked to bring people together. He is an example of what a change of heart looks like.

No, I haven’t seen the movie “Selma” but I lived through that time and know things are different now. Are they perfect? NO. Humans aren’t perfect and there is room for growth no matter what color our skin.

Remembering the past in a movie is fine. We need to understand the past so we don’t repeat it. Still, getting lost in the emotions of the past is possibly not the best thing.

Perhaps, living together and respecting each other is how we honor those who fought publicly for equality, those who quietly taught their children and those who changed their minds and opened their hearts.

If we are encouraged to live that way because of a movie, it is a good thing. If we use a movie, or anything else, to stir up emotions that separate us, we do not honor the legacy of Dr. King and those who marched with him from Selma to Montgomery.