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Reflections On Rosa Parks

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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.

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.
  • Dr. Kurt

    A noble post, Scott.
    Don’t forget the Supreme Court’s very successful efforts to re-segregate our schools. I’m sure Ms. Parks was not impressed with Clarence Thomas!
    The effort must go on, within our own hearts and in our dialogue with others.

  • Spot on.

  • Thanks, Natalie and Dr. Kurt.

  • Rosa Parks was probabally very happy with Clarence Thomas. He is a Black man that came from poverty and rose up and made something of himself. Clarence Thomas is anti-affirmative action. What is wrong with that???

  • KYS

    Nicely done, Scott. Thanks for the informative references!!

  • Thanks.

    Example #4 is here, an idiot making racist jokes about a black Republican candidate.

  • Scott, what the hell I am supposed to be looking at at that link???

  • You’re supposed to be looking at the first

    “As if I needed another example of how much work needs to be done in the civil rights arena we have this nasty racist post about black republican Michael Steele, as described at Captain’s Quarters.”

    I didn’t want to link directly to the offensive photo.

  • Anthony,

    Why are you against Affirmative Action?


  • I am against affirmative action because I believe, white or black, the best man for the job is the best man for the job.

  • Or, I assume, women.
    Or is that a Freudian slip?

    Here is the best piece I’ve seen on Parks in recent days, since it incorporates not just words but music to get its points across.

  • Dan

    “Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center are very much in demand to help fight clear blatant acts of racial violence.”

    um, you do know that 85% of all racial violence between black and white is *black on white* don’t you?

  • Scott, that is how the saying goes. It is meant to include women too.

  • Dan, can you back that claim up?

  • Eighty-Five percent is either Black on White or Black on Mexican.

    I go to school in Souther California and I witness this often:

    Black people are very sensitive. If you make the slightest mention of the N word or poke a little joke at their race you will get jumped. Since blacks tend to fight in numbers a race riot will happen.

    It has happened to me. I Black boy called me the N word out of fun and I told him that, “I am no N**** (‘a’ version which is usually O.K.) I am a Dago”. Then he made a whole thing about it (because I actally used the word) and hit me upside the head with a Windex bottle and called me a “beaner.” So I came at him with a 4X4 (missed) when the teacher walked in. I was the one who got sent to the A.P. and dubbed a racist.

    The next day he brought 15 of his hommies over to where I was at lunch. Mexicans came over to defend me, I look Mexican but I am Italian, and a riot ensued as I was walking away.

  • Anthony — Perhaps you could learn to be a little more sensitive.

  • Eric, so you want me to start a race riot every time someone calls me a Dago, Wop, Wetback, Beaner or Cracker???

    P.S. I have been called ALL those names multiple times each.

  • No, you could be a little more sensitive by walking away, realizing it’s not worth it, realizing that you can do your own little part to better humanity by not rising to the bait, etc.

  • Eric, if someone hits you upside the head with a Windex bottle and being called a beaner are you going to walk away???

    Thinking about it is not going to help. Imagine you are at that very moment being hit with the Windex bottle and being called a beaner eventhoug you are Italian. What are you going to do at the heat of the moment???

    If I would have sit there and did nothing when he hit me I would have been hurting humanity. He would think it is o.k. and he will get away with violence and he will do it again and again. If I would have made contact with that 4X4 with his dome it would have been a rude awakening for him.

  • As you described it, your words — innocently uttered (and I have no way to verify whether it was or not, of course) though they may have been — helped to lead to the innocent.

    The rest of your comments make no logical sense, so I’m not going to continue this discussion.

  • (Bring this conversation back on topic…
    As I said – and as has just been demonstrated – we have a long way to go before the “We shall overcome” goal is truly met.

  • Rosa Parks would, I think, be ashamed by how some black Democrats in Maryland are acting.

  • “and as has just been demonstrated – we have a long way to go before the “We shall overcome” goal is truly met.”

    What do we need to do to overcome??? Destroy the Democrat Party???

  • We need to overcome the idea that it’s ok to make racial slurs, regardless of your political affiliation or the race of the person making them.

    We need to overcome the idea that it’s ok to call a woman a bitch, as was done in this thread.

    Generally, we need to overcome intolerance.

    We need

  • We need to overcome the idea that it’s ok to speak your mind if it conflicts with even the most strident interpretation of “liberal” dogma.

    Generally, we need to overcome tolerance.

  • Wow. Do you have any idea how significant those two words are?
    Maybe you’re trolling and trying to get a rise out of me. Well, it worked.

    Let’s look up the dictionary definitions here.
    o·ver·come ( P ) Pronunciation Key (vr-km)
    v. o·ver·came, (-km) o·ver·come, o·ver·com·ing, o·ver·comes
    v. tr.
    To defeat (another) in competition or conflict; conquer. See Synonyms at defeat.
    To prevail over; surmount: tried to overcome the obstacles of poverty.
    To overpower, as with emotion; affect deeply.

    tol·er·ance ( P ) Pronunciation Key (tlr-ns)
    The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.

    Leeway for variation from a standard.
    The permissible deviation from a specified value of a structural dimension, often expressed as a percent.
    The capacity to endure hardship or pain.

    Yeah we should find a way to avoid tolerance.
    Why not just take the logical step and say you support discrimination too?

  • Scott, YOU are clearly the one here arguing against tolerance. I’m just saying that you getting your panties in a bunch over every perceived slight against your imagined idea of perfect liberal good attitude is not a display of superior tolerance, but in fact of INtolerance.

    It’s one thing if someone is actively oppressing black folk, denying them equal access to public transportation such as Rosa Parks. Displaying a slightly abrasive attitude toward a particular woman (Gretchen Wilson) in the blog essay you link is something entirely different.