“We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, (…) tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.”
The common assertion is that 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, Ala. But we must confront this assertion, because each time we confine her memory to that moment we erase part of her admirable character, strategic intellect and indomitable spirit.
To be clear, Rosa Parks left us a deliberate legacy of activism, not an accidental activist moment. Furthermore, she, like many other Black women, should not be remembered in the shadows of Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. or any other Black male civil rights activist, but rather right alongside of them. We must realize and teach that when Rosa Parks was helping lay the foundation for the civil rights movement, Dr. King was still in high school.
At the intersection of sexism and racism, it is not surprising that we remember Rosa Parks as demure and delicate, since the image of her sitting quietly with her hands folded politely in her lap is commonplace. However, if we get beyond our stereotypical expectations of who a Black woman can be, we bear witness to her steely grace and steadfast commitment to defending human dignity. She had been doing so for years before she ever got on that bus.
Mr. President,Did you see the footage from the pepper spray attack by the police on UC Davis students? How does this make you feel as the President to see your citizens treated like this? How would you feel if this happened during your days as a community organizer? Are you waiting to see how your comments would affect your reelection bid? Are you waiting to find out whether the occupy movement is viewed as favorable before you comment? What could you possibly be waiting for to decry these attacks? I’m running out of excuses for you Mr. President. Please speak to this violence. Make pretend the videos are from Egypt if you have to. Your voice may be the only thing that stops this. Do you realize that? Please stop this. Do you want this to be your one regret of your Presidency in 20 years? Do you want us to always remember the first black president as the one who wouldn’t stand up for the civil rights of its citizens? I’m not asking you to acknowledge the protest. I’m not asking you to do anything but demand a stop to the violence. Can you do that sir? Can I count on you?