Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Rosa Parks - 1913--2005

I remember explaining the Civil Rights movement to my French host family back in 1993. I think it started with with a question about the Cosby Show, which was on during dinner. I told that that the Cosby Show was not only funny but important to us Americans, because it was the first time some Americans imagined a healthy, prosperous, loving African American family that they could relate to. Sure, it's not the experience of all African Americans, but it was inarguably an image that our culture needed to see.

The conversation went from there to a discussion on pre-Cosby tv shows, those sit-coms focusing on poverty and stereotypes. You know what I'm talking about. It was the 70s; everything was poorly written.

And the conversation went from there to a discussion of segregation; schools, drinking fountains, bathrooms, businesses. And that desegregation did not happen because of the goodwill and change of heart of mainstream white america. It happened because some people decided to stand against injustice; they showed white America that in denying the dignity of others, they denied their own; they would have to face their hypocrisy. It happened because one black woman chose to be arrested rather than give up her seat on a bus. And that woman's name was Rosa Parks.

My French family was a little stunned that I knew her name.

Today was All Souls Day, and we started our weekly department meeting with a litany of the dead. Rosa Parks was the first name spoken.

The vice president wants the US to be able to torture as a weapon in the war on terror. He wants to fight terror with... terror.

I really believe that we're better than that.

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