Tuesday, October 25, 2005

R.I.P. Rosa Parks

Rosa Rosa Parks died yesterday at the age of 92.

I would've liked Rosa Parks. She was sassy. She stood up for what she believed in and wouldn't let The Man get her down. Never underestimate what a small act of well-placed sass can do. It made Rosa Parks a national celebrity, and indeed, changed the United States of America.

Our generation cannot fully grasp the segregation the generation before us endured. We've read books and seen movies and heard stories, but we didn't grow up like that, and indeed, I have a hard time believing it was ever so, and especially such a short time ago. A black woman got on a city bus in my mother's lifetime, and got arrested for not giving her seat to a white woman. It's incredible.

One of my favorite West Wing quotes is from one of my favorite West Wing characters, Admiral Percy Fitzwallace. He's meeting with a group of military personnel to discuss the admission of gays in the military, and they tell him that they're not prejudiced against homosexuals, they just don't want them serving openly in the military, because their inclusion poses a threat to military discipline and cohesion. Admiral Fitzwallace says "That's what I think, too. I also think the military wasn't designed to be an instrument of social change." He then goes on to say this:

"The problem with that is that what they were saying to me 50 years ago. Blacks shouldn't serve with whites. It would disrupt the unit. You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. The unit changed. I'm an admiral in the U.S. Navy and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff... Beat that with a stick."

Rosa Parks disrupted the South. And you know what? The South got over it. The South changed. The only way to preserve our democracy is to take part in it. I think that was Churchill. Or maybe it was Jed Bartlett. But it's true.

Rest in peace, Rosa Parks. Thank you for taking part. Thank you for changing our world.


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