Birmingham, Alabama was known by the previous generation for segregation, breaking up protests with fire hoses, the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s imprisonment. Something interesting happened as a result of the massive protests in Birmingham in the '60's. People changed. Today in Birmingham, there are still some racist bigots--white and black (probably Hispanic and Asian, too) but things are vastly different from those previous years. Black people and white people get along much better. They listen to the same radio stations, work together, and go to school together. It may not yet be a full realization of MLK Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech, but people can genuinely relate to each other as people instead of different-looking creatures. It seems like racism is not as big a problem here as in many northern cities. And most importantly, a lot of people, black and white, are seriously committed to getting rid of racism for good.

I was walking across town a few days ago and I saw this painted on the side of a building, along with a mural of a globe and a multiracial group of children walking arm-in-arm. Every line of the pledge seemed like something I was already committed to. (My name is now on the list of signees.)

Birmingham Pledge

I believe that every person has worth as an individual.
I believe that every person is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of race or color.
I believe that every thought and every act of racial prejudice is harmful;
if it is my thought or act, then it is harmful to me as well as to others.

Therefore, from this day forward I will strive daily to eliminate racial prejudice from my thoughts and actions.
I will discourage racial prejudice by others at every opportunity.
I will treat all people with dignity and respect; and
I will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a better place because of my effort.
The pledge is available on the web at http://www.onb.org/racerelations/bhampledge.html. The site has a form that lets you add your name to the list of people who have already signed it. The list of people who sign will eventually be put on display at the Civil Rights Institute.

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