On September 15th, 1963, a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The ground floor of the church collapsed as giant flames and cloud of smoke erupted, leaving twisted splinters of wood, jagged pieces of rock and articles of clothing in its place. Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carol Robertson, and Denise McNair were the only ones killed in this horrific attack, but many more were injured or maimed due to the explosion. Not only was this one of the most traumatic attacks during the Civil Rights Movement, the incident itself illustrated the absolute resolve of the nature of racial violence and how the closed-mindedness of a few affects the behavior of the many. The tragic death of the four girls palpably reveals how racial violence is an evil which knows no boundaries.
Obviously this is one extreme of racial discrimination. However, there are much more subtle methods in which a racially jaundiced society undertakes such behavior to achieve class (or racial) dominance over another. As we see in Hansberry’s “A Raisin In The Sun” the Younger family is faced with mounting opposition at every step they take to better the quality of life for themselves and their family. In particular, when the protagonist Walter Younger attempts to go into a split-partnership on a liquor store, he is taken advantage of and subsequently loses a sufficient portion of the cash money collected from the death benefits of his late father (Hansberry, 782,83). This specific time period did not afford blacks the opportunities that the white folks were afforded, which caused severe racial profiling and harassment, and a lot of innocent people suffered. We get a first-hand glimpse of the violence that racism promotes in the poem “Ballad of Birmingham.”
The daughter asks permission to attend a civil rights rally, the “Freedom March”, but is told she cannot go (Randall, 4). The mother, however, still believes that there is a place safe from racial hatred and suggests that her daughter “go to church instead, and sing in the children's choir" (15-16). In the end, the horror of the violence leaves the mother disillusioned and terrified. Here we can see that Randall is telling the audience that there is no refuge in an evil world and one may face horror in the street as well as in the church. At the end of the poem, the child's body and the mother's naive faith in the limits of hatred and violence have been destroyed, and the ballad leaves the mother transfixed among the "bits of glass and brick," (30) where she can find only her little girl's shoe, but not the girl herself.
The violence touches even this woman who would keep her family out of the danger of active political protests, yet it was futile, because in an evil world there is no sanctuary. Randall reminds the audience of what is at stake in the struggle for civil rights; no safe haven, no respect for innocence or life, and the potential for violent resistance, not just towards social change, but even to the presence – new or continued – of blacks in communities with whites. Neither is there a thing such as staying out of the struggle in order to avoid trouble, as we can see in Hansberry’s play when the play’s antagonist, Mr. Lindner, attempts to discourage the Younger’s from moving into an all-white neighborhood. Not only did Mr. Lindner attempt to discourage the Younger’s, he actively positioned himself to be superior to them by referring to them as “you people” and stating things such as “special community problems” (Hansberry, 775).
Such “problems” could be those mentioned by Mrs. Johnson in her conversation with Mama when she addressed the recent bombings (767, 68). Those bombings, however, where not actions of the blacks, but rather the direct actions of the whites that hated the black community, and took it upon themselves to bomb them out, such as in “Ballad of Birmingham.” Simply addressing an issue is acceptable in any