January 19, 2012

Racism

This blog doesn't usually go into social issues, but during the long Martin Luther Kind Day weekend I decided to research Rosa Parks. I was always familiar with the overall story: A black woman was sitting on the bus. A white passenger got onto the bus later and black woman was asked to stand in order to make room for the white passenger. Black woman refused and was arrested for civil disobedience. Obviously, Wikipedia is the source for what follows.

That's all true but it's more dastardly than that. Montgomery, Alabama, home of the event in 1955, had seat segregation where a certain amount of seats were reserved for whites at all times and there was a sign labeled "Colored" to indicate where black people could sit. The de facto practice was for bus drivers to move said sign back when there were not enough seats for white people.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks sat in the "Colored" section but the white people section filled up. When additional whites boarded the bus, the bus driver moved the "Colored" sign behind where Ms. Parks was sitting and he waved her to move from the seat. She refused and was ultimately arrested.

For those of you unaware, black people use COTA with some frequency. I, on the other hand, am color blind but people tell me that I'm white because I bike on the right side of the road. Regardless, I have thought about that scenario on the bus this week and I am at a lost to explain what Americans were thinking just 57 years ago.

First, I could not fathom a bus driver demanding the "coloreds" to give up their seat for me. Secondly, I would feel morally wrong if I allowed the bus driver to make such a demand. In the years prior to the end of segregation (1965), I don't know how people could treat each others with such disrespect.

Finally, it's not like this happened in the distant past - it was only 50-60 years ago which is in living memory. Segregation is more of a tarnish on United States history than most people give credit for.

Cool link of the day (the black crows were nice to dumbo!)

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