Skip to main content

Stand Up by Sitting Down

Summary: Every conscious decision we make as a community has in impact.

I am not a historian, but I read every now and then.

Jim Crow laws were a series of American statutes that legalized racial segregation. Existing for about 100 years from as early as 1865 until 1968, the laws were intended to "restore" Southern states to a pre-war class structure by marginalizing African Americans, some of whom were freed slaves.

Black codes were dictated as a legal way to put black citizens into servitude — taking their voting rights away, controlling where they were allowed to live and work, and how they traveled. The list goes on.

In Montgomery, Alabama, segregation mandated that the front of a bus be reserved for white residents only, and the seats in the back rows for black residents.

Rosa Parks (1913 - 2005) had had enough. She was tired. No, not physically tired. She said she was tired of giving in.

On December 1, 1955, Parks chose to stand up for herself and other African Americans by — interestingly enough — remaining seated. On her commute home from work, the "white" section on the bus was full. The bus driver told Parks to give up her seat in the "colored" section for a white man. Parks refused.

Moments later, two police officers approached the bus, arrested Parks and placed her in custody.

On December 5, Parks was found guilty of violating segregation laws in court. She was fined and given a suspended sentence.

Her conviction helped initiate the civil rights movement. Black community leaders organized a 381-day bus boycott — led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — during which Parks lost her job and experienced year-long harassment.

The boycott would only come to an end when the U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional.

We don't all have to be "the mother of the civil rights movement."

But remember this: Every conscious decision we make as a community, everything we did (or didn't do) collectively on any given day, will inescapably be written into history, forever.

When future generations look back, some events will seem utterly ridiculous to them, some remarkable.

Stand up for what you believe is right — even if you are literally sitting down, like Rosa Parks was.