Mind Matters — The Eclipse and Evolution

Hmm, maybe science is having a comeback, now that hateful rhetoric has been eclipsed momentarily. Indeed, certain parts of the United States experienced a total eclipse and other areas a partial eclipse. Here was an event that unified the country with awe and wonder.

What made the predictions of where and when this solar eclipse could be seen was the math and science of astronomy and astrophysics. There was a time when whatever unusual happened in the heavens was understood only by superstition—the end times, perhaps.

How exciting that science has progressed and our thinking has evolved so that we can now enjoy such a unique experience of the eclipse without fear and trepidation but instead with joy and celebration.

Change of heart and mind is possible and it is most often preceded by learning facts and gaining knowledge that wipes away ignorance and denial. Look at how far we have come since the 1960’s. we may be planets away from where we need to be, but we are light years away from where we were. (I hope!)

I remember the civil rights movements of the 1950’s and 1960’s. As a teenager, I was sheltered; but if I extrapolated the loving message of my Catholicism along with what I was learning in civics and history class, I knew that segregation and white supremacy was immoral and downright wrong.

When Viola Liuzzo, a white civil rights worker and mother of five, was killed by the KKK in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, the reaction of many whites, including some in my extended family, was to blame the victim—“She shouldn’t have been there,” “She should mind her own business,” blah, blah, blah! I was so furious that I screamed and cried and ran out of my relative’s house.

Why I say we have come a long way—have evolved a bit—is that the white reaction to another occurrence is remarkably different. Fifty-two years later, a young white woman, Heather Heyer, took a stand against white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, and was murdered because of that.

At Heather’s funeral, her mother, Susan Bro, quoted her daughter: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” She urged us all “to channel anger, not into hate and violence or fear, but into righteous action,” saying “they tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what, you just magnified her. … if I have to give her up, we’re gonna make it count.”

Heeding her words, most Americans have been horrified by the white supremacist movement and have begun to take action against it—speaking out and showing up. Of course, what whites have experienced intermittently, people of color have endured for centuries.

In 1955, another mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, also faced the brutality of racism head on after her son, Emmett Till was savagely murdered in Mississippi. Brought back to Chicago, his mutilated body was laid in an open casket. “The open-coffin funeral … exposed the world to more than her son Emmett Till’s battered, mutilated body. Her decision focused attention not only on American racism and the barbarism of lynching, but also on the limitations and vulnerabilities of American democracy.”

The original casket and a memorial to Emmett Till resides in the Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C., where people come daily to process reverentially, quietly as though his wake continues every day. And so it does—until we are all woke! How far we evolve in the next seven years before the next eclipse is up to us all!