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TDIH, Rosa Parks was born. While many know she wasn't a simple apolitical seamstress, her ideas about US racism & struggle are still largely unrecognized. So for today—at a time in this country when we need her ideas more than ever—a short thread highlighting Parks as a thinker:
White supremacy “walks us on a tightrope from birth,” Parks explained, highlighting the “major mental acrobatic feat” it took to survive. She struggled with the pressure to submit. There was “no solution for us who could not easily conform to this oppressive way of life.”
Recalling Du Bois’ invocation of “the problem of the color line,” Parks riffed “color line hanging rope tightrope.” Feeling like “puppets on the string in the white man’s hand,” Parks lamented “we perform to their satisfaction or suffer the consequence if we get out of line.”
Parks had been an activist for yrs before her arrest.She highlighted how radicals like herself were often demonized.“Such a good job of brain washing was done on the Negro that a militant Negro was almost a freak of nature to them,many times ridiculed by others of his own group.”
Parks wrote a lot on the stigmatization of "troublemakers" & the tremendous pressure white people brought to bear on Black people who refused to go along with segregation.“It was not easy to remain rational and normal mentally in such a setting.” But submitting was not an option.
She was not quiet when she was arrested Dec. 1, 1955. Calling attention to the larger power in the system, Parks questioned the arresting officers, “Why do you push us around?” The officer was surprised, answering “I don’t know but the law is the law and you’re under arrest."
Black people were pressured to consent to their oppression & across her life Parks felt it was essential to dissent, even if you wouldn't be heard or successful.She framed her bus stand as refusing consent--to move would be “approving this treatment, & I did not approve.”
She saw the political interests in casting her feet as tired. “I didn’t tell anyone my feet were hurting. It was just popular…because they wanted to give some excuse other than the fact that I didn’t want to be pushed around." She had a "life history of being rebellious."
Parks later reframed the question of her crime,“Let us look at Jim Crow for the criminal he is & what he had done to one life multiplied millions of times over these United States and the world.” She was not a gradualist-- "in favor of any move to show that we are dissatisfied."
Parks believed in direct action: "As long as we formed little committees & went to the bus company & asked to be treated like human beings & continued to travel on the bus nothing happened." She refused to go "with a piece of paper in my hand asking white folks for any favors."
Above all, Rosa Parks believed across her life that "the struggle continued." "Freedom fighters never retire," and she didn't. As she told a group of Spelman students, "don't give up and don't say the movement is dead."
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