December 1, 1955 - The birth of the modern American civil rights movement occurred as Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back section of a municipal bus. Her arrest resulted in a year-long boycott of the city bus system by African Americans and led to legal actions ending racial segregation on municipal buses throughout the South.
The struggle to confront and make amends to a racist legacy continues to this day. Rosa Parks was one punctuation point on a long, continuous timeline.
To young’uns, born at a time of an African-American president, this seems like ancient history and yet they sense history’s long shadow in various ways even now. It’s impossible to understand today’s grievances without remembering and reminding what is, in historical context, a blatant disregard for the full humanity of others.
A much wiser person than me, who is also a renowned psychologist, put it this way: “Humans are hardwired to think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘not us’, with all the defensiveness this implies.” This served for self-preservation under threat and did, at times of great scarcity, have a function. But, I only hope, we are slowly evolving to override this and to understand that race and religion do not make anyone “not us.”
Remembering Rosa Parks today.