About a year ago, the pilgrimage stemmed from idea into an actual journey. At first, Tim Jones, professor at BC, David Domke, professor at UW, and two of their colleagues went on a “miniature pilgrimage […] throughout the south,” as described by Austin White, BC student and ASG member. Jones and Domke then organized another pilgrimage, this time including two BC students and one other faculty member. The most recent pilgrimage, which spanned from Oct. 5 to Oct. 12, included five students and two teachers, Tim Jones and Nick Price.
“The goal of the civil rights pilgrimage is to provide you with a perspective on what the civil rights movement was, what it is today, and how the issues that were pertaining to the ‘50s and the ‘60s are still very present today, both the injustices and some of the successes,” White shared.
Anna Brosius, a student who went on the pilgrimage said the journey was “interesting” because “it’s a pilgrimage, it’s not a trip. […] If I were to go to [those] places by myself or with my family, it would be a completely different experience.” They participated in workshops at various centers with people who are involved in the movement. The workshops were geared towards discussions of civil rights issues, which gave them a chance to look at the problems “through a different kind of lens than [they] would normally.”
“To be so touched and so moved by those people and the people who are still working there today,” caused Brosius to “grow a lot personally, in terms of learning how to push myself. I have a lot of passion, but sometimes I can kick it up a notch and I can definitely do more.” Brosius continued, “Because so many times people say that they care and they understand but they don’t do anything. I think there was very much a sense of ‘We got to go do something now,’ and I think we’re still figuring out what that thing is.”
Though expecting to learn more about the history of the movement and “the foot soldiers who were on the ground actually organizing,” what White ended up learning is that “A lot of the things that the civil rights movement is fighting for and fought for is not done, and in fact, it’s probably regressing. […] Racism is not in in the forefront anymore. It’s still very present in every single way of life. White privilege is a real thing, and white people are treated much better than any person of color.”
“It’s not saying that white men or women are better than people of color,” Brosius elaborated, “[however] it is much easier in America to live as a white man or as a white woman than it is to be living as a person of color, in terms of opportunities.”
“Talking about people’s identity and valuing people’s identity is really important,” Nick Borkowski, BC student, said, “especially about race because it’s such a huge issue in this country.”
“You can say all you want that you’re not a racist,” White said, “but [you have to] prove that and then you take action and steps to be anti-racist […].” White privilege continues unless people collectively “change the social norm,” which is something the cumulative encounters throughout the pilgrimage urged students to do. Trying to change the social norm is what “being an anti-racist is. You can’t say ‘I’m not racist,’ but stand by and abuse your white privilege to succeed while people of color are being put down. You have to elevate both yourself and those who are not as privileged.”
While recalling something one of the speakers on the pilgrimage spoke about, Brosius said, “White people have a responsibility to change things.” Previously, she had not thought of acting out of anti-racism as a “responsibility,” rather, she thought, “This is a nice thing that I’m doing. […] It’s harder for white people to understand when they’re hearing it from people of color, but it’s easier for white people to understand if they’re hearing it from other white people, that they are privileged.”
Borkowski explained that after the pilgrimage, he found himself “feeling more comfortable talking about race in general, and about naming the prejudices in our society. […] I want everyone to experience this.”
“When I was a kid, instead of Superman and Batman being my heroes, civil rights leaders were my heroes. Like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, those were my knights in shining armor when I grew up […] I’ve always been interested in civil rights and civil engagements.”
Those who are also interested in civil rights have the opportunity to apply for the March pilgrimage, applications for which are available in Student Programs and are due Nov 7. An information session about the pilgrimage will occur on Monday, Oct. 27 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. in D106. There will also be a nonviolence workshop with Dr. Lafayette. The event is free to students, but space is limited and those interested must register beforehand at here
Of the pilgrimage, Borkowski said, “There’s a lot of sad, but there’s a lot of inspiring, amazing things too,” and those latter things are what the pilgrimage focused on most avidly. Nick said. “Anyone who can get in: It’s totally worth it. It will change your life.”