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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Rules and Mediocrity



Rosa Parks, 92, died of natural causes at her home in Detroit, Michigan. For those of us a little light on history, Rosa Parks was a woman, a black woman, who in 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, was arrested for not relinquishing her seat on a bus to a white male passenger.

I know, 50 years later it seems hard to believe that this could have happened, but it did. Her arrest lead to a year long strike against the bus system in Montgomery, which eventually caused enough financial pain that the segregation laws on public transportation were lifted. You might remember the young man who instigated this reform, Martin Luther King. And so started the civil rights movement.

It was not all rainbows and puppies for this movement and it didn't happen all at once. Years later this reform would take new spins and one would be branded integration. A young white boy living in Mobile, Alabama would be bused 45 minutes to the 'other side of town' to a predominantly black neighborhood in the name of integration. The bus the boy took would routinely have bricks thrown at it by angry neighborhood folk, angry black neighborhood folk. Those same folk would protest outside the school, daily. They would take their happy black children out of that school and move them to another. Now the young white boy was being bused 45 minutes to the 'other side of town' to a black neighborhood to go to a mostly white school. The boy's other friends who lived in the non-integration bound part of the boy's neighborhood and who went to the local school would feel sorry for him. This was the other side of integration and that white boy was me.

What did I care? I had no idea what integration was, I just thought the bus ride was fun and the new school was huge and in a cool neighborhood with lots of trees. I went to this school for 3 years and loved it. I made great friends, great black friends. They taught me how to dance and introduced me to fun music like the Isley Brothers, Funkadelic and the Ohio Players. My best friend, LaSheri, who lived in the angry black neighborhood, would educate me in the latest fashions, which my mom would then go out and buy for me. My mom drew the line when I asked her for an Afro.

But its what all the groovy kids are doing, MOM!!!

It would be years before I realized I was in the middle of a multi-decade time bomb. Integration did not go smoothly during that time nor the years following. After the fact I heard many horror stories from both sides of the color line. But still I'm glad that in some small way I unwittingly participated in what Rosa Parks started. And I wonder today if she had reliquished her seat on that bus, would history have played out the way it did. Would we have advanced to the place where we are today? Its hard to say but my guess is that it would have taken much longer.

What I admire about Rosa Parks was her ability to stand. She broke the rules because the rules made no sense to her. And really, the only thing to gain from slavishly following rules and blindly conforming to the status quo is a smooth, calculated path to mediocrity.

Rest well Rosa.

Pic: Me with my puppies - Mobile, Alabama 1975


18 Comments:

Blogger purpletwinkie said...

Beautiful post.


Oh...and I can see you with the afro. Yep.

8:20 AM

 
Blogger Brian said...

An important message, well-told. So many people don't seem to grasp just how different this country was not very long ago at all. And on some levels, how much the same.

I can see the Afro, too. I bet you fulfilled that desire after leaving home. We want pictures.

10:35 AM

 
Blogger Adam said...

Great post, a fitting tribute.

So uhh who wants to come with me and start having gay sex on the house and senate floor until all those facist republicunts, and some pansycrats, get used to the idea that gay people exist?

11:30 AM

 
Blogger Jim said...

Thanks Scott. I never did get my Afro. Shortly after Mobile we moved to San Francisco where I embraced the new British punk invasion. I did have Annie-Lennox-short blue hair (and magenta and yellow and I think green) but alas there are no pictures.

1:33 PM

 
Blogger Jim said...

Thanks Brian. I never did get my afro but there is still time, I'm sure my hair guy would be all for it! :) LOL

1:53 PM

 
Blogger Jim said...

Thanks Adam. And 'attaboy', the fornicating for equality idea is a novel one. When you dig out from the stampede of volunteers, give us an update :)

1:57 PM

 
Blogger ScottyFerguson said...

very nice post Jim.

4:19 PM

 
Blogger Sangroncito said...

She is one of my heros.

5:12 PM

 
Blogger Jim said...

Thanks Scotty!

8:26 PM

 
Blogger Jim said...

Definitely Sangroncito, she deserves a little recognition.

8:32 PM

 
Blogger George said...

Afno. Whew, glad you passed on that one. Blond afros just won't fit into my tiny brain waves--it would surely boggle my brain!

So many people fail to recognize that it only takes 1 person to get a ball rolling. Many don't know how or don't want to pay the price. One brave little girl made a big difference and we all know what price she paid. I think Adam has a great idea. I could use a trip out of Colo. anyway. GREAT POST JIM!

8:42 PM

 
Blogger Jim said...

You can rest easy George, no afro scheduled :)

Yes, it only takes one and yes there is always a price. Rosa Parks was arrested, thrown in jail, fired from her job and apparently forced to leave Montgomery. But man, look what she accomplished!

You and Adam have a great time in DC, send postcards! :-D lol

9:09 PM

 
Blogger BRETTCAJUN said...

THIS IS SUCH A CUTE PIC JIM!!!! You don't want to see my pics. My mom let my brother and i have long hair like GIRLS! (cause she wanted twin girls) I can NEVER POST THAT PIC!

9:16 PM

 
Blogger Jim said...

Thanks Brett. Oh, that pic of you with long hair is a must :)

11:39 PM

 
Blogger Noeha said...

Wow...amazing post. It's always fascinating to see what the impressions are through the eyes of a child. And - these are the things that form us. Incredible to think that this happened just one short generation ago; I can only imagine what my son's generation will see...

10:49 AM

 
Blogger theclamwhisperer said...

That was so well-written and beautiful. I thank you for a gentle reminder that one person can change the course of history. Wild to think that she will be the first woman to lie in honor at the Capital with the likes of Lincoln and Kennedy. Well deserved. Thanks again for a wonderful read.

11:01 AM

 
Blogger Jim said...

Noeha, hopefully Karim's world will be much, much better!

7:59 PM

 
Blogger Jim said...

Thanks CatchYa,

Wow I wasnt aware she was receiving such an honor but it is well deserved!

8:00 PM

 

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