“I don’t think I should have to stand up”

Race

Today, on my 21st birthday I would like to celebrate the life and legacy of someone I can only aspire to become. This woman showed bravery and strength in a time when she could’ve been killed for defying a white man.

I am honored to share my birthday with this wonderful woman. Rosa Parks was a remarkable woman. Not only did she light the flame for the Montgomery bus boycott during the Civil Rights Movement, she was deeply involved in her local NAACP chapter and worked tirelessly to end segregation and the racial tension deeply rooted in the sourosa-parks-mug-shotth.

As a little girl I can remember learning about Parks in school, but my teachers never went much further past “Rosa parks refused to give her seat to a white man and that started a big bus boycott in Alabama.” As I got older I wanted to know more. I wanted to learn more about not only Rosa Parks but the Civil Rights Movement in general.

Throughout all of my schooling, the Civil Rights Movement is something that was almost always looked over. Teachers would touch on it vaguely during February because of Black History Month, but it was always the same thing, every year.

It wasn’t until I got to college and took an African American Studies class that I really learned about my history and what the Civile Rights Movement really entailed. Since then I have made it my goal to educate myself about that time period.

After Parks’ arrest, she was fired from her job and her husband was also let go. While she was a hero within the Black community, she was seen as a problem by whites. This is the same narrative that most black people face when they stand up (or sit down) for equal rights.

Rosa Parks was not violent or hostile to the men who told her to move on the bus. She simply said “I don’t think I should have to stand up,” which she had every right to say. What made that man so special? Did he have a disability? Was he holding a small child? Had he just finished running a marathon? No, I don’t think he was any of those things. He was a white man though, and that was the only thing that mattered. The color of his skin automatically made him superior to anyone of darker complexion on that bus.

The actions of Parks reminds me of what a few individuals are doing right now. You may recall me talking about Colin Kaepernick in an earlier post and how him simply kneeling during the National Anthem has caused nationwide outrage.

You may be tRosaparks_bus.jpghinking to yourself, “Jasmine that’s not the same thing, what he’s doing is disrespectful.” Is it really that different, though? Parks decided to stay seated because she was tired, not only from work but she was tired of giving into the racism. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Kaepernick is not kneeling because he hates America, he kneels because he, like many black people, is tired of discrimination, systematic racism, and senseless police brutality that is still all too present in the country.

I realize this post has strayed away from my original intent, but the message is still the same. Rosa Parks was an incredible woman. She embodied strength and dignity and did not give up on what she believed in. I can only hope that I become half of the women she was.

I am honored that I share a birthday with someone who was so influential in the Civil Rights Movement. It is my goal to uphold her legacy and live my life as fearlessly as she did.