Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Reponse to “It’s Time to Free Rosa Parks from the Bus”

               I found this article detailing Rosa Parks’ work during this Civil Rights movement to be truly eye opening. The author does a great job in the opening by detailing the commonly held view that Rosa Parks was a normal black woman who brought to light many of the injustices that were happening throughout the country. McGuire easily dispels this myth by giving a brief history of Parks’ life as a child, and the views that were instilled in her by her grandfather. What I found interesting about this article was the mention that some groups have attempted cite Mrs. Parks’ story of a white man trying to rape her as a work of fiction, which led me to the question: Why would anyone discount this story from such a historical figure? My conclusion is that this story conflicts with the classical portrayal of Mrs. Parks as a passive woman who one day decided to resist oppression.
                In my mind, Parks’ historic bus ride is what I think most people view it as, that she was tired after a day of work, and simply wanted a seat on the bus. Additionally, I pictured her as an inconsequential elderly African American woman who one day decided that after a life of oppression, decided to take a stand. I think that one of the reasons that she has been portrayed as something of a leader was that she was not someone who would do such a thing, that she would either go to the back of the bus and stand there, like she was supposed to. On this day, however, this was not the case and she decided to rise up and fight against injustice. In my opinion, this seemingly spontaneous activism is what made Rosa Parks such a figurehead. It would not be too far a stretch of the imagination to think that when African Americans throughout the country saw a seemingly passive, elderly black woman rising up against persecution, then of course they could too.
I think that Parks essay detailing “Mr. Charlie’s” attempted rape and her conviction to die before he got what he wanted shows that she was anything but passive. This is of course not to say that women who are raped, and don’t die, are passive. Rather it is to show her aggressive denial of injustice, and I think that this is why some of these groups attempted to cite her story as a work of fiction. With this story it makes it seem that Rosa was not just an ordinary woman, but one who will fight tooth and nail against her oppressors. Furthermore, she will die before her tormentors get what they want. I think that these groups credit her essay as a work of fiction, because it makes it far more difficult to view her as a common, oppressed African American woman who was a symbol of resistance.

1 comment:

  1. Jay, I also think this article is an interesting critique to the popularly held understanding of who Rosa Parks was. Just like nearly every other historical figure, as we saw in Jefferson's Pillow, there is always more to the person than it seems. I think you are spot on, the portrayal of Rosa Parks as a tired, elderly woman, was definitely promulgated by Civil Rights leaders because it is such an empathetic and compelling image and story.

    As an aside. One of my roommates is from Montgomery, Alabama and I was telling him about our class and he told me that when his father was a child he went to the dry cleaners where Rosa Parks worked every week and she always gave him candy. History comes to life!