March 7th marked the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”, which took place in Selma in 1965. Tens of thousands of people walked across the bridge in Selma, Alabama on Sunday to commemorate what happened there 50 years prior. The participants sang the song “We Shall Overcome” and carried signs as they walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
According to Tami Chappelle’s news article covering the commemoration of the event, “among the throng were demonstrators who took part in the 1965 march, as well as others calling for immigration and gay rights.” Though this point in history marks a turning point in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, Bloody Sunday was a tragedy in itself. Six hundred activist were beaten by police who attacked them with batons and sprayed them with tear gas. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) were encouraged by local activists in Alabama to make Selma’s resistance to black voting a national concern. Martin Luther King and the SCLC led a series of demonstrations to the Dallas County Courthouse. On February 17, 1965, a protester named Jimmy Lee Jackson was shot and killed by an Alabama state trooper. The protest march in Selma, later to be named Bloody Sunday, was scheduled in retaliation of this police brutality. During the march, they found their way blocked by state troopers. When the protesters refused to leave, the officers shot teargas into the crown, beating the nonviolent protesters, and hospitalizing over fifty people.
“The anniversary comes at a time of renewed focus on racial disparities in the United States and anger over treatment of black civilians, among them 18-year-old Michael Brown, whose killing by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last year sparked widespread protests,” says Chappelle.
Despite the events that occurred there, the Edmund Pettus Bridge has become a sacred symbol of the black fight for equality. Though much was done that day, there is still much more that needs to be done today. Fifty years after Bloody Sunday, there are still many issues concerning race. Today, racism is covert. Blacks are more likely to be arrested; they’re more likely to be convicted when the supposed victim is white; they have a disproportionate representation in prison. Blacks today are not overtly oppressed, but institutions today are established with dissimilar objective interests, as Bonilla-Silva argues, that encourage inequality covertly.
Black hate crimes are taking the forefront in the media and our everyday lives. Despite the progress that has been made for equality in the last fifty years, the events that happened on March 7th, 1965 in Selma are still relevant today, when names like Michael Brown and Eric Garner still bring to light important racial disparities.