Leave Rosa Parks alone!
1/7/2016, 1:06 p.m.
In the annals of the nation’s history, the righteous struggle of Black Americans—our symbols, icons and organizations—has often been hijacked, commandeered and expropriated by those claiming to identity with our cause or to justify their own.
When the cry of “Black Power” resonated across America, we witnessed the emergence of “Flower Power,” and then “White Power,” which was particularly redundant given the uninterrupted prevalence of white skin privilege. And when the Black Panther Party sent a tremor through the body politic, there was the creation of the White Panther Party and the subsequent Gray Panthers.
Now, with much more invidiousness and illogic, we have the recent claim from the armed, self-styled militiamen who have seized control of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon that their situation is akin to the one Rosa Parks challenged.
Wait a minute, minutemen! Let’s get one thing straight, if these men were Black, Hispanic or Native Americas, this encounter would have been over before it went viral. For the leader of the group to compare their plight with the bravery of Rosa Parks is to impugn her integrity, tarnish her legacy and diminish the important role she played as a catalyst to the Civil Rights Movement.
There is a reluctance on our part to even dignify such obnoxiousness. Rosa Parks was a Black woman risking her life in the bowels of Jim Crow Alabama, not a group of white men in Oregon, many of them are not from the state or vicinity, brandishing weapons and watching the local law enforcement agency and the feds keep their distance. Parks was arrested almost immediately, jailed and fined for her defiance of unjust laws.
We have no idea how this standoff will be resolved. We do know that our cherished icons should not be dragged into something that reminds us again of how our fight for freedom, even after a relative victory, can be compromised by others with only a smidgeon of commonality.
Rather than Rosa Parks, you would think the Bundy bunch—after Ammon Bundy, the leader of the takeover—could find somebody west of the Pecos who embodies their complaint about land grab. Of course, to select any Native American would be equally wrongheaded.
We are also troubled by the conjecture making its way via social media that Bill Cosby is the latest edition of Emmett Till. Although all comparisons are odious, this one is particularly ridiculous. And the defenders of Cosby, like the militiamen in Oregon, need to find a better avatar, a better symbol to stake their claim.
Please let Rosa Parks rest in the peace she rarely had during her glorious fight against bigotry, segregation, racism and white supremacy. If she must be summoned again to remind us of her achievements, we would prefer it be done with much more honorable and noble intention.