October 27, 2007

The real story of Rosa Parks

Over at Pam's House Blend, JulieWaters has a thought-provoking reflection on the story of Rosa Parks - both as she's been mythologized and as she really was - and what the gap between those things means for activists and activism today.

I've always loved the real story behind Rosa Parks, which is a bit different than the one most of us read about in school. The mythology runs that she was a tired lady who just got fed up with having to give up her seats one day. This isn't quite how it happened. Rosa Parks was an activist and she knew exactly what she was doing at the time. The bus boycott didn't just happen spontaneously. It was planned and executed masterfully.

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The reason Rosa Parks is portrayed as a tired lady who just got fed up is because, as a culture, we're afraid of acknowledging what she really was: a powerful woman who had used what wits she had to take control over her situation against overwhelming odds.

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Can you imagine what would happen if instead of just being outraged and frustrated we were outraged, frustrated, and extremely well coordinated?

Can you imagine what could happen if we were to transform the public dialogue and make activism something to be proud of? Can you imagine what would happen if we told people far and wide that not only should the admire Rosa Parks for standing up for herself, but for doing so with eyes open, knowing that she was risking arrest in doing so?

Click on over to Pam's and check out the full post. I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

8 comments:

Fetiche said...

Parks was selected by the local chapter of the NAACP for her supposedly spontaneous "protest."

Erica said...

to fetiche...auntie rosa was chosen (after she was arrested) to be a test case...as a lot of people know there were several women chosen before her but they were not used because their reputations were not up to it in that period of time. The resulting boycott was planned after she was arrested, her not getting up when told to was not planned. She did not think of being used as the test case for trying to get rid off segregation on the busses until after she was released from jail all she thought about was getting home like many other normal people would. There should be no quotation marks around protest because that is exactly what she was doing, protesting!!!

Paula said...

Rosa Parks was not "chosen" or "selected" as she was already working for the NAACP and already an activist. Already had a passion and wasnt just blind to her surroundings and just went with the flow of being "chosen". If that was the case, it wouldnt have been successful. It wasnt easy or glamorous back then, not even to all Black people.

Erica said...

paula read My Story and you will see that she was selected by the NAACP....see my post above as well

Alicia said...

whether or not she did what she did on a whim or as a planned protest, I have a great deal of respect for her. Her courage in the face of injustice is most admirable.

emily2 said...

erica is right. in a civil rights class in law school we were taught that rosa parks was not the first plaintiff to be chosen. she was, however, the one who made the cut, because she seemed like a sweet little lady and she didn't have anything sketchy in her past that could be brought to light.

this is common knowledge among anyone who took a civil rights class in law school.

she was a shrewd activist who knew EXACTLY what she was doing (rosa parks = stealth fighter!), and for that i have tremendous respect for her. choosing the "right" plaintiff in a civil rights case is key to swaying a jury.

emily2 said...

[note: third paragraph should start out with "however, she was also a shrewed activist"]

emily2 said...

dammit... "shrewd"

i wish we could edit our comments... grrr.