The cynicism of racial politics knows almost no limit
There is no cow sacred enough to avoid becoming a political football.
The cynicism of racial politics knows almost no limit. Both sides try to show that they are "minority friendly" with true racial equality taking a back seat to racial block voting.
The recent anniversary of Rosa Parks decision to face trial rather than give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala. Bus brought out the worst in both sides of the aisle and moved the spotlight off of the real lesson Parks' decision should teach us.
The Republicans took the opportunity to remember Parks for her role in "ending" racism. That's like celebrating the end of winter during a snowstorm. We aren't quite there yet.
Republicans seem to err on the side of claiming missions are accomplished prematurely on a regular basis.
In their defense, the end of racism claim came via the official Republican National Committee Twitter feed. Sure, you would expect someone to have taken a second look at that tweet before placing it in the public forum. But it is hard to speak with much nuance when you are limited to 140 characters.
It wasn't the end of racism in America, but the tweet wasn't exactly the end of the world either.
President Barack Obama marked the anniversary of Parks refusal to give up her seat in the same way he did last year. He tweeted a photo of himself sitting on an empty bus.
In Obama's defense, he is the first black President and many times in his career I am sure he faced a virtual "give up your seat" situation and he obviously didn't succumb to that pressure.
But even as President, there are some situations that aren't about you. Because of the nature of his first minority President status, Obama's legacy will be magnified. His administration has always kept one eye on that and opened the door to narcissim charges by his opponents. In this case, he walked right through that door.
But while both sides were trying to own the Rosa Parks story, neither side told it.
While Parks' stand didn't end racism, I think it is important to see how far we have come.
Fifty-eight years ago when she told the bus driver she would not move, Parks lived in a world where busses were segregated. So were cafeterias, bathrooms and water fountains.
Opporunities in education and employment for people whose skin bore too much pigment were incredibly limited.
But Rosa Parks wasn't a civil rights activist. She was a seamstress. She was physically tired from a long day of work and emotionally tired of bus drivers telling her to give up her seat. In that moment, her courage and resolve were tested and she passed with flying colors.
When the Montgomery Improvement Association was formed to deal with racist issues in the city a young minister named Martin Luther King, Jr. was chosen to lead the group.
She was a seamstress. If more whites had found another way home that evening, she might never have crossed over to become a political activist.
But she stood up for her convictions, and like a rising tide lifts all ships, her actions elevated King as a leader andpaved the way for him to help people of color knock down many of the barriers that held them back.
Now their grandchildren will never encounter many of the issues they faced every day.
Things have change. But tihngs don't just change. People change them.
Rosa Parks went from seamstress to activist with one sentence.
I think many of us will face that moment one day and most will choose the past of least resistence and move to the back of our bus and suffer in silence.
But there will be some who stand up and refuse to go along with social or political systems that are morally abhorent.
The first days or weeks or months are never easy. But those are the people who make the world better for all of us. After all, Parks was found guilty of not following the bus ordinance and ordered to pay $14 in fines and court costs. She lost her job, as did her husband. They ended up having to move from Montgomery to Detroit.
The bus boycott that followed left public busses in moth balls and led to an outbreak of racist violence in which black churches were burned down and black people were terrorized in their homes.
Not long after, a district court and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the racist Jim Crows Laws.
After 381 days, the city leaders had no choice but to give in to the financial pressure from the boycott and legal pressure from the courts to desegregate public transportation.
One woman's actions were a spark that consumed legally established racism.
What is important enough to force you into action? Hope is not a strategy and good intentions don't bring about change.
Action does that. And that is up to you.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org