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Recalling Rosa Parks On Martin Luther King Day

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Moral clarity comes in small packages do not at first seem to be the vehicle by which justice arrives. But Rosa Parks was such a lady, and her cause of social justice stirred a nation and resulted in fundamental changes that make our nation a better place to live.

On the opposite side of the historic divide, figures that held power, prestige, and social influence in their grasp declined the opportunity, for whatever reason, to undo injustice and stamp out racism and bigotry. Thomas Jefferson, understanding the heavy weight of slavery on the nation, felt that a future generation would take up the job of eradicating slavery. After the Missouri Compromise he was so dejected by the decision that he predicted the Civil War that would consume the nation. And yet he never had the inner strength to stand up for the end of slavery in a public way.

President Buchanan understood the failure of the institution of slavery but resigned himself to the confines of the Constitution, as he interpreted it, and made no course correction for the nation on the eve of the Civil War. The power of the White House rested in his hands but he blinked, and as a result the Confederates felt emboldened, and the abolitionists grew stronger in their distaste of slavery and national impotence on ending the disgrace of owning another human being.

But a slight unassuming woman decided that after a long day of work she would not move from her seat on a bus. Rosa Parks was already in the back of the bus, but as more white riders boarded she was requested to make room for one of them. She refused, and history shows how the brave action of one person changed the national dynamics forever.

We often look, perhaps too often, to the holders of power to make changes for our society. Perhaps we need to look in the mirror and reflect on what we can do in our own small ways that may set in motion the hopes we wish for in our country.

I suspect there is a little Rosa Parks in many Americans, and her lasting legacy would be further enhanced if more of us discovered it, and employed it in our daily lives.

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About allendrury

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com Michael J. West

    But a slight unassuming woman decided that after a long day of work she would not move from her seat on a bus.

    I really don’t want to undermine your point, which is wonderful, but this perception of Rosa Parks isn’t right. Rosa Parks was, in fact, a local NAACP activist who had actually planned the bus incident as a protest. It was an incredibly brave and resounding protest to be sure, but not a spontaneous “oh, I’m just so tired” one.

    Does that negate the need for people to play their own individual part, however small it may be? Of course not. Not at all. We should all be ready to protest injustice whenever we can. But it’s counterproductive to string along this myth of Rosa Parks as this demure woman who decided she was just too tired to move to the back today. She was a lot smarter and savvier than that, and she knew exactly what she was doing from before she even got on that bus.

  • http://www.chancelucky.blogspot.com chancelucky

    Yes, Parks had actually worked for many years as an activist and was I believe the secretary of the local chapter of the NAACP before the moment that made her famous. I think part of the reason for the persistence of the myth is that we don’t generally like to believe how well planned and organized the Montgomery Bus boycott really was.

    The other interesting thing about Rosa Parks’s life is that after she became the symbolic conscience of the American Civil Rights movement, she had to move twice. She couldn’t find steady work until she moved to Detroit and worked as a staffer for her congressman.
    America may have talked about her being an “icon”, but they never really treated her that way until the end of her life.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com Michael J. West

    I think you’re right, chancelucky; we don’t like to know how planned and organized the boycott was. And although it makes me seem horribly, horribly cynical to say it, I think the reason we don’t like to know that is because it says that it takes more than one person to make a difference.

    But there really are examples of one person bravely and spontaneously taking a stand for good. I nominate the anonymous pedestrian who stopped the tanks in Tiananmen Square as a true hero in this department.

  • http://opedwriter.blogspot.com/ allendrury

    Thanks for the correction. While I knew the boycott was organized I was not aware that it was planned prior to Parks’ famous ride.

  • jh

    g