It was 60 years ago that Rosa Parks effectively started the modern Civil Rights Movement by refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Parks was not the first person to do this. Claudette Colvin had done the same thing in March of that year. But when it was discovered that she was 15 years old, pregnant, and unmarried, civil rights leaders decided not to use her as a test case. As we know today from incidents like the murder of Trayvon Martin, the first thing the power elite does is dig into the victim’s background. Regardless, Parks was hugely important in the Civil Rights Movement.
I did learn something interesting today. She was not originally sitting in a “white” seat. The bus became over-crowed, and so the driver simply assigned four “colored” seats to “white.” Parks was sitting in one of those four seats. She was arrested for violating a local segregation law, but she hadn’t actually broken it, given that she wasn’t sitting in a “white” seat.
What I find fascinating about this is how it shows what a sham segregation and “separate but equal” laws were. Here was a bug with seats for whites and blacks. But the moment there wasn’t enough seats for whites, the bus driver just took seats from the blacks. This couldn’t even be used as satire because it is too extreme. You might as well say, “Separate but equal”: 36 seats for whites and 0 seats for blacks!
It’s interesting to see that the bus is in the Henry Ford Museum. And that there are plaques and monuments to the event. But some (Most!) people will always be behind the curve. It doesn’t matter what it is. We love our old civil rights heroes (especially after they’re dead), but we hate our new civil rights heroes. We throw them in jail and applaud ourselves for our righteousness. But given enough time, we change our beliefs and claim we always thought that way. I don’t place myself above anyone else in this way. But a little self-recognition would be nice.