Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Tired Parks Stood for Sitting

A Tired Parks Stood for Sitting
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
October 26, 2005

Some actions tend to have unintended consequences. Rosa Parks did not set out to start an evolution, yet her simple act of sitting became the catalyst of a race rising up.

Yes, evolution, not revolution as a span of 90 years passed from 1865 to 1955 when Ms. Parks, an Alabama seamstress, educated at Alabama State College, decided she was simply too tired to stand. After all, she occupied a seat in the “colored” section of the bus – the fifth row of the bus, and first of the “colored” section.

Apparently the law stated that blacks and whites could not occupy the same seat on a bus and when a white person boarded the bus, he was “entitled” to a seat – even in the “colored” section, prior to seating a black rider.

Ultimately Rosa Parks’ December 1, 1955 arrest led to the Montgomery bus boycott that would last until December 21, 1956. This boycott cost Montgomery businesses revenue and even lives. However, it sparked a movement – initially one of non-violence led by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Boycotts with economic ramifications are powerful tools. Some might say more powerful than violence. When rioters took to the streets in Newark, Oakland and Watts during the 1960s, they destroyed their own neighborhoods. Critics watched with disbelief not understanding why people would destroy what little they had in their own neighborhoods.

On the other hand, economic boycotts are far more reaching, as demonstrated in Montgomery as white-owned businesses suffered egregiously. Cash, after all, is green, and neither black nor white.

Schools – public, private, religious and charter, would do well to teach this lesson and about the unintended heroic Rosa Parks. Sadly, too few students, black, white or otherwise know about Rosa Parks. She undoubtedly will soon adorn a US postage stamp – and rightfully so.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria, VA.

[This column appeared in the Alexandria Times.]

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