I feel compelled to say something meaningful about the death of Rosa Parks.
And yet words fail me.
I thought about just linking to this great essay by Sarah Vowell, which is in the Partly Cloudy Patriot, in which she writes about everyone from Ted Nugent to Katherine Harris comparing themselves to Rosa Parks and how stupid and insulting that is.
But that did not seem enough.
I thought about writing about what it is like to use Rosa Park’s experiences to teach children about protests and fighting the power and how just being a law is a law doesn’t make it right.
I thought about trying to put into words the feeling of stepping onto a bus at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis – let alone standing on the balcony where Martin Luther King was shot – and how overwhelming a feeling that is.
And yet words fail me there too.
So instead let me just say that although the meaning and significance and implications of her actions are misunderstood by many – as explained by Slate – she remains an inspiration to us all.
But a few hours after posting that in my blog I realized how I can best do her justice: I’d write about how more progress is still needed.
Now the easy way out is to read about Rosa Parks’ death and the Civil Rights movement and to say, “oh, that was a long time ago and life is vastly different today.”
And THAT would be a lie.
A tempting lie, in that it makes life’s guilt and worries less, but a lie nonetheless.
Three examples come to mind:
1) A chilling new book – reviewed in the Washington Post – talks about cities that still do all they can to remain segregated.
2) Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center are very much in demand to help fight clear blatant acts of racial violence. It’s leaders, Morris Dees, is one of my few living heroes.
3) There is still a terrifying amount of hate groups, many with their own Internet sites. In fact, when I was just googling for the Southern Poverty Law Center I came across this misleading Internet page referring to Dees as “anti-white” and a “scumbag” and most sites have much more powerful language. There is some scary stuff out there but I’m not going to help them get traffic by linking to them.
Racism and hate have not gone away. Fortunately programs like Tolerance.Org are working to try bring a future with less racism and hate.
I don’t know if it’s a problem that can ever be fixed but please don’t think that with affirmative action and steps taken in recent decades that the problems of minorities are all gone.
To do so would be doing a disservice to Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and others.