Sitting down for what’s right

When I hear historians or newspeople talk about the story, I imagine myself in her same position. I think about what I would have done and the politics of the time. I know that I would have been worried for my own safety. I’d like to think that I would have stood my ground, that I would have done the right thing, but I don’t know.

Sixty-seven years ago, Rosa Parks worked a full day as a department store seamstress and boarded a bus to go home. The bus started to fill up. When the bus driver ordered Parks to give up her seat for a white passenger, she refused. When asked about it later, Parks, the granddaughter of former slaves, explained that she did so because she was tired of giving in to discriminatory laws.

What would you have done? 

At the time the Montgomery City Code stated that all public transport must be segregated and gave bus drivers the same power that police officers had inside their buses. The bus was filling up with white passengers, who not having anywhere to sit, had to stand up. The driver moved the separating line back one row, forcing four black passengers to give up their seats. The other three passengers obeyed, but Parks wouldn’t budge. She wouldn’t give up her seat. The driver called the police, who arrived and arrested her.  

The NAACP and other African American activists immediately called for a bus boycott that significantly impacted the Montgomery bus ridership and stretched out for more than a year. Finally, on November 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Alabama and Montgomery city bus segregation laws as being in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders ended the boycott in December, Parks was among the first to ride the newly desegregated buses.

What would you have done? 

For her efforts, Parks was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr.’s award by the NAACP, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal. Rosa Parks Day is celebrated each year on February 4, her birthday. Parks died in 2005, at the age of 92, after a lifetime of dedicating her life to civil rights and educational causes.

So, as we come up on February 4, I wonder again: What would I do? I would hope that I would stand for Civil Rights as steadfast and strong as Parks. What would you do?

46 thoughts on “Sitting down for what’s right

Add yours

  1. Every American needs to take a personal Civil Rights tour in Alabama with a visit to the historical sites in Selma, Birmingham, Montgomery – the museums are a must. To think of Rosa Parks and her commitment to human rights is a reminder of our opportunities every day to perform outrageous acts and everyday rebellions.Speak up, sit down, stand still and listen. Onward.
    Thanks so much for this post.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’d like to think I’d have the courage. I might have it initially. But I’m someone who will eventually cower and concede when faced with adversity from an authority figure (the bus driver did not break any laws, after all). Thank you for sharing this story in recognition of this great woman’s birthday!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks you for an important reminder that freedom must be fought for and is often hard one. Rosa Parks was exceptional in her determination to stand up for her rights. Would I have the same courage? I’d like to think so, but until we are put in her position it’s hard to know.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m not sure we can speculate on what we would do Brian, even though we all hope to make the right choice. Parks had reached her breaking point that day, but 3 months earlier, or 6- would her choice have been the same?? Emotions can drive us in many directions and clearly for Parks hers said enough is enough and she changed history by listening and acting.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I think we’d all say the same thing, that we’d like to believe we would have had the courage to do what Rose Parks did. It’s a very hard call; regardless of our convictions, it’s not easy being brave. I don’t think we could fault anyone for not having the fortitude and faith Rosa had.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ll second Sheila’s comment about immersion and taking a tour of historical sites — and keeping the “ever onward” thought first and foremost in mind. Thank you for this, Brian. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We talk a lot about heroes in our culture. I feel like I was fortunate as a kid. I looked up to Hank Aaron and since I liked the Pittsburgh Pirates, I liked Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. I was lucky . . . All three of them were great athletes, but in some ways, even better men. I can think of few better heroes though than Rosa. What an inspiration.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a great question and thought experiment. I didn’t know the part about the driver moving the line back. My initial response is that I would have probably gotten up and moved — but that’s because I have the privilege of not knowing what a lifetime of injustice feels like. Your post reminds me of how far we still have to go to know and understand each other and being fair.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This is one of those great dilemmas, Brian. Standing back from the situation I would like to think we would all do the same thing. We would never know until we were placed in that situation how we would react. The brain and fear can lead us to do things we thought we never capable of. It can also work in reverse. Like Wynne says, a lot would depend on how deep the situation or injustice was burning inside of us. A good question and thought to take into the weekend, Brian.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh my friend Brian, this is truly a mind-stirring reflection on the life of Rosa Parks and her incredible courage. As you pose this question, “What would I do?” I often wonder if I would have had the type of courage that she had, knowing that her decision may not have ended well as was the case for so many others who saw violent and tragic endings.

    Fast forward to now, we witness cases of racial and other societal attacks, more than we care to see, but we try to spread a light from within that illuminates love, peace, and joy, while grinding the wiles of hatred and other “isms” under our feet, like putting out a lit cigarette under our shoes. I enjoyed reading your composition my friend. Thank you for sharing! 🥰💖🙏🏼🌟🌞

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You nailed it Kym. It’s easy for me to say “sure I would have done it” knowing what we know now. But what if it had been a more violent end. She was such a hero. Martin Luther king too for espousing nonviolent responses. I doubt that I would’ve been able to keep my cool. I hope this piece handled her achievements with the grace they deserve! Thanks for your wisdom Kym. Very much appreciated!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Brian, my friend, it’s time for us to deal with our “signs of the times.” I see progress, but at the same time I see much of the fabric in our society turning their heads to the ugliness rising up from mindsets influenced from an ugly past. But my friend, we must stay steadfast, for we are responsible for our actions. Continue to spread your light my friend. Let it shine brightly and shatter the darkness!

        Have a lovely evening and a marvelous weekend. 🥳🥂🌟

        Liked by 1 person

  10. This is such a thought-provoking and very important topic, Brian. Rosa was incredibly brave in standing up for herself, her beliefs, and, just as importantly, for justice. I didn’t know anything about the dividing line on the buses, segregating people based on their skin colour. How appalling. She well deserved the award. As for your question, what would I do? Putting aside my disability, I’m not sure I’d have the courage to stand up for myself and others. In all honesty, I’ve always had problems dealing with authority figures, so as much as I’d like to say I would have had the courage to resist giving up my seat, I’m not so sure I’d be able to do it. Thanks for sharing this essential post and airing a very meaningful subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A friend of mine assured me that Ms. Parks had been recruited and trained by the NAACP to do the best, cleanest and politest job of that sit down so that they could jump in with their boycott. She wasn’t acting alone, and I think we can call their whole operation a resounding success and a precedent setter for all the increased equality which has evolved since that day. Courageous young women rule!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea, I’ve read some descriptions explaining that it was a coordinated effort. I started to dive into some of that, but I waned to keep the focus on her bravery. She might have had the support of others, but the authorities back in that time could have easily handled it in a much different way. She could have been arrested and never heard of again. She could have been black-listed from future employment. Her calm demeanor, the way she handled everything, were all heroic. And yes, I agree: “Courageous young women rule!” My daughter tells me that all the time!


      1. Oh, we’re in full agreement. She absorbed a poisonous amount of hatred through the process, guaranteed ~ and walked into it all with grace and style. A remarkable soul ~ if she was chosen, they chose well.

        Liked by 1 person

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