Monday, October 31, 2005

Rosa Parks

When I was growing up in Alabama, her name was spoken with the same kind of contempt and hatred one would use when uttering a profanity.

For some, it was because she was a woman who did not know her place. For others, it was because she was a black person who did not know her place. For many, it was because she was the one who 'started' all the trouble that plagued the state and the nation. And for just about every one around me, it was because of all three that her name was anathema.

We'll never really know if her feet hurt so much that she couldn't take another step. But we can be certain that her soul ached from years of the pain of people looking down at her because of the color of her skin.

She may not have been so physically tired that she could lift herself from that seat in the front of the bus. But there is no doubt that her heart was weary from all the names she had been called since she was born.

While she could have simply acquiesced to the request to give her seat to a white man (even though the seats on either side of her were empty; but then no white could be seen sitting next to a black person), she simply refused to move . . .

. . . causing a seismic shift in America by her simple act of courage.

This past weekend, the body of Rosa Parks was viewed by thousands in Montgomery, Alabama, where the civil rights movement began. The descendents of her spirit, black and white, came to honor her courage, her character, her witness.

For this former "cuss word" is now the by-word for justice, for hope, for action throughout the world.

And today, her body lies in the Rotunda of the nation's Capitol building, the first woman to be so honored, because she honored us with her grace, her wisdom, her gentleness.

How appropriate that yesterday's Gospel reading contained these words: 'The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.' (Matthew 23:11-12)

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

1 comment:

Dave McCamey said...

She is a true hero and a role model for what one person can do, with courage, with grace and with God's help.

There are still 'Whites only seats' in the USA. The derogatory joke about non-White accents; the judgement, blaming and labeling of hurricane victims; the disinterest in understanding why team mascot names might be viewed by some as systemic validation of stereotypes; the 'code words' of 'equal rights not special rights' to defend long standing injustices; generational poverty attributed to sterotypes of laziness and lack of integrity; and the list goes on. The list, by the way, is pretty much invisible to Whites, unless they really try to see.

Each of us can honor Ms. Parks by confonting these injustices clearly and with love.

Thanks for this Gospel Sighting, Thom!