26 October, 2005

turn that hate to pride

On an oddly related, but far more respectable note, I would like to pay brief homage to Ms Rosa Parks, known as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, who passed away yesterday at the age of 92.

Parks became a symbol of the fight for African-American equality on December 1st, 1955. Then a 42-year-old seamstress in Montgomery Alabama, she refused to move to the "Negro" section at the back of a public bus, but steadfastly sat among the white people at the front. She was arrested and convicted of Disorderly Conduct.

The next day, around fifty leaders of the Black community, lead by one Rev Martin Luther King Jr, came together and discussed the case, which resulted in a complete boycott of the Montgomery Bus system by African-Americans. For over a year, black people refused to board public buses, throwing the public transport system into disarray until the segregation laws were eventuially overturned 381 days later. In 1956, the US Supreme Court finally ruled that public transport segregation laws were unconstitutional.

For many of us, it is impossible to really imagine a life of legalised segregation and vilification based on race ~ at least not on the scale of early-20th-Century USA, or South African Apartheid. Mercifully, much has changed in the intervening years. American "Jim Crow" laws are an injustice confined to the history books, while we watch South Africa progressively becoming accepted back into the global community.

But it would be naïve in the extreme to believe that such segregations have vanished entirely. It may no longer be written in the law, but inequality and injustice are still rife within the US (as became tragically apparent in the aftermath of Hurricaine Katrina), and indeed all over the world. Here in Australia, with
mandatory detention for assylum seekers and the apalling state of Aboriginal welfare, true equality is still a distant hope. As the diverse people of the human race become increasingly intertwined, there will always be prejudice and oppression in infinite guises, whether on the basis of race, religion, gender or lifestyle. That, unfortunately seems to be a reality of the world.

However, as Rosa Parks' story shows, to make a difference does not require aggressive action or the blind hatred of violent vengeance. A simple act of quiet defiance can make all the difference. Sometimes all it takes is one person to stand up - or, indeed, to keep her seat - and demand to be recognised as a human being, worthy of rights and respect.


Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home