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The Myth of Rosa Parks


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The myth of Rosa Parks is well known. The tired seamstress who boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in December 1955 and refused to give up her seat to a white man has become one of the most enduring legends of the civil rights era. Her subsequent arrest started the bus boycott that launched the civil rights movement. It transformed the apartheid of America's southern states from a local idiosyncrasy to an international scandal and turned a previously unknown 26-year-old preacher, Martin Luther King, into a household name.

"She was a victim of both the forces of history and the forces of destiny," said King. "She had been tracked down by the zeitgeist - the spirit of the times." The reality was somewhat different. Parks was no victim. The zeitgeist did not track her down; she embodied it. She had a long history of anti-racist activism and had often been thrown off buses for resisting segregation. Far from being a meek lady in need of a foot massage she was a keen supporter of Malcolm X, who never fully embraced King's strategy of non-violence.

"To call Rosa Parks a poor, tired seamstress and not talk about her role as a community leader and civil rights activist as well, is to turn an organised struggle for freedom into a personal act of frustration," writes Herbert Kohl in his book She Would Not Be Moved.

The story of collective struggles is all too often filtered through the experience of an individual. In a bid to render the account more palatable and popular, the personal takes precedence over the political. As a result the story may reach a wider audience; but by the time they receive it, the agendas and the issues involved have often become distorted - to the detriment of both the individual and the movement.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Colum...1553870,00.html

Edited by Gary Younge
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Guest John Gillespie

Gary,

Thanks for helping expose the patronization of myth and history. The proffered version is for caucasion consumption, perpetuating the distortion of the helpless Negro waiting for The Man's largesse, like a house pet broken in to display suitable gratitude.

It was not by any legislative means that righteous people rose against injustice to achieve individual rights - and not inequality of a different kind.

Yours Truly,

JohnG

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While I knew that Rosa knew what she was doing when she refused to be moved, I hadn't thought of the media's depiction of her as poor and tired as a deliberate distortion. It's obvious now this was so. White America has difficulty feeling sympathy for black America when black America demands anything; they only feel sympathy when black America politely asks. Then White America can feel all good about themselves and their 1000 points of light etc. I'm curious as to the motivations of the men who painted her as poor and tired. They may have (probably correctly) decided she'd get little sympathy if she came across as angry and articulate, and figured she'd be more effective as a symbol if they poured some Aunt Jemima syrup on her pancakes.

The treatment of Rosa Parks reminds me a bit of the treatment of Helen Keller. While American society embraced Keller as shining proof that through hard work and perseverance one can overcame one's handicaps, they dismissed her political views as ignorant and hopelessly influenced by her handicap, as if to say "what does she know--she's just some silly blind deaf girl."

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Guest John Gillespie

Pat,

Once again, there should be no "wanna be..." in your signature. Telling it like it is, as Howard Cosell said.

Minorities, handicapped or anyone 'disadvantaged' can smell a phony or patronization a million miles away.

I grew up in the societal atmosphere of the 50s and 60's that tacitly insured we felt advantaged, at least in terms of opportunity, and we were right.

My take on discrimination, bigotry, etc. is that prejudice, taken literally, isn't itself a bad thing. I believe we all have prejudices and that they easily can be overcome by respect for truth and justice.

But childhood, adolescence and adulthood are distinctions with a difference, to say the least. So are prejudice and bigotry - and I think most of us know that. Funny how the elites don't want us to get along, though. It's not in their best interest.

Yours Truly,

JohnG

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Guest Stephen Turner
Funny how the elites don't want us to get along, though.  It's not in their best interest.

Yours Truly,

JohnG

Never a truer word spoken John. divide and rule,divide and rule.."They dont want libraries, give them a circus" Tiberius germanicus 1st century BC....

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