There is a difference between reading about the Civil Rights Movement and experiencing the Civil Rights Movement. I learned that Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were not the only heroes of the movement. I learned that the racial tension between whites and blacks during the 1950s and 1960s is still present today through stories of first hand experience. I was reminded that I was born with an invisible set of privileges as a white person, and even though this brings a sense of guilt to my conscious, I can take this guilt and work for equality. I was reminded that every set of privileges is not a black and white issue. There are privileges to being part of a specific social class, sex, ability, religion, or sexuality. Everything I learned or was reminded on this trip is something I could not have realized anywhere else but New Market, Tennessee, Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia.
We’ve talked a lot about what we learned on this trip as a group, but I think the hardest conversations we had as a collective was applying what we learned to the future at Lafayette and to our own futures even past collage. It is a hard conversation. First, we had to admit that Lafayette is not as diverse and people, especially privileged students, like to think the campus is. Lafayette is not diverse. So how do we fix this? Well, we talked a lot about what can be done. For example, the single-sex dorms should be equal. Kirby, Soles, and Marquis should be of equal standard structurally. Also, more students from different races, socio-economic statuses, and ethnicities need to be recruited to come to Lafayette. True, a lot of students would not feel comfortable on a campus that is predominantly white to come to Lafayette anyway. However, the more students from different races, ethnicities, and social classes that are recruited through such methods as letters and visits from Lafayette admissions, the more diverse Lafayette will be. And lastly, all buildings on campus need to be handicap accessible so students of different abilities can go to classes and their dorms without worrying how they are getting there. These are just a few suggestions we as a group came up with. One thing we stressed was that there is no reason to bring the privileged students down, but instead to bring the disadvantaged students up to the standard privileged students live at Lafayette. I think this is the most important part of change that could be and should be something that guides changes both at Lafayette and in America – everyone, regardless of race, size, sex, ability, sexuality, religion, or any other identity, should be brought up to an equal step of privilege.