Rosa Parks passed away this week, but her impact on the world will not soon fade. I remember the dark days of segregation in the South. As a poor Texas boy, I frequently used the public transit system to get around. It always bothered me when black people would move to the back of the bus when whites boarded, but that was the way things were -- until that day in 1955 when a seamstress from Montgomery, Alabama, politely declined to give up her seat.
Rosa Parks stood
for dignity and self-respect remaining seated on a city bus.
Many people today do not understand just how bad it was back then. Being black meant being poor which, in turn, meant relying on buses to get to work or school. Typically, there were a few rows in the front of a bus reserved exclusively for whites. The ones in the back were always filled with blacks. The ones in between were available to blacks as long as no whites needed them. If a white person boarded and needed a seat, the blacks had to move further back, stand in the aisle, or leave the bus entirely. Noncompliance resulted in harassment, arrest and, sadly, in some cases even violence and death.
In today's culture, where a millionaire athlete cries racism over a dress code, it is difficult to relate to the days when simply going to work posed a real threat. Rosa Parks' arrest sparked a boycott that began on the day of her trial and lasted for 381 days -- over a year! During that time, blacks endured not only the inconvenience of limited transportation, but also the constant specter of physical harm. Even after the Supreme Court outlawed segregation on city buses, effectively ending the boycott, the violence escalated. Churches were bombed. Buses were sniped. Activists were murdered. I still find it difficult to understand how any people at any time could justify, in their own minds, such despicable actions. But thankfully, in the end, sanity prevailed because one woman sat down and inspired enough good people to stand up for what was right.
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that Rosa Parks' motivation for challenging the immorality of segregation stemmed from "her personal sense of dignity and self-respect" and I agree. Unfortunately, some of the more visible contemporary leaders and role models in the black community have lost this sense of dignity and self-respect. Too many hip-hop artists glorify violence and denigrate women. Some high-profile athletes dismiss their bad behavior with a flippant, "I ain't no role model." And several civil rights leaders appeal only to the anger of blacks while promoting social policies that enslave their followers to poverty and dependence on government entitlements.
Thomas Sowell, one of the brilliant minds of modern ideology, wrote in The Dangers of Equality, "Becoming the pawns of politicians is a high price to pay for letting demagogues stir up our envy and beguile us with promises to equalize."
Rosa Parks was not a pawn of self-serving politicians; she was the victim of an evil culture and gross discrimination. Yet she inspired the best in blacks and whites to unify them behind a cause that served the best interests of all mankind. Today's social engineers, civil rights leaders and ethnic icons must regain or retain that personal sense of dignity and self-respect in order to carry on the legacy of Mrs. Parks and continue making positive strides toward racial harmony.
Goodness, fairness, decency and other righteous virtues are the things to which we should all aspire. These are the ideas for which every person -- regardless of race -- can stand and, in so doing, inspire necessary change.
Author: James Robison
Word Count: 600
About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE
Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host
of the television program, Life
Today; and author of The
Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at jamesrobison.net
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