Tuesday, October 25, 2005

God Speed, Mrs. Parks

CNN: Rosa Parks dies at 92:
Parks' moment in history began in December 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama.


At the time of her arrest, Parks was 42 and on her way home from work as a seamstress.

She took a seat in the front of the black section of a city bus in Montgomery. The bus filled up and the bus driver demanded that she move so a white male passenger could have her seat.

"The driver wanted us to stand up, the four of us. We didn't move at the beginning, but he says, 'Let me have these seats.' And the other three people moved, but I didn't," she once said.

When Parks refused to give up her seat, a police officer arrested her.

As the officer took her away, she recalled that she asked, "Why do you push us around?"

The officer's response: "I don't know, but the law's the law, and you're under arrest."

The US was born of a few principles, principles that it did not live up to for more than a century, principles that it still struggles with. Certainly, we must remember how the US system abused blacks, women, Asians, American Indians and others.

At the same time, we also cannot forget that the very system that abused also corrected itself, that the police officer who arrested Rosa Parks for not giving up her seat to a white man was part of a judicial system that eventually ruled that such treatment was unconstitutional, and that both the police officer and Supreme Court were part of a government that soon passed the Civil Rights Act.

The genius of the founding fathers was not that they were individually perfect -- they were far from it. No, the genius was that they built a system that was self-correcting, as long as men and women of principle run it, and as long as our nation produces principled citizens courageous enough to stand up and challenge the system when it's wrong.

God speed, Mrs. Parks.

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