Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks died. I remember learning about her in elementary school in "social studies" class. The story we were told was that she refused to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery because her feet were tired. But today I heard an interview with her on NPR, and she said that that day (she was 42) she had no problems with her feet. She had already been deeply involved with the NAACP civil rights movement, and she decided that she was going to make this protest in advancement of her ideals. Why were we taught that she was tired? I feel disgust.

I remember my brother coming home from school in second or third grade and telling a joke he had learned from a classmate. The joke involved the word "nigger." My mother was angry and told all of us--my brother and I, my sister being too young to understand--how this word was hateful and that she never wanted to hear it from us again. My mother was active in the NAACP when my parents lived in Philadelphia, and had always taught us that any kind of prejudice was evil. And she practiced what she preached. But in the lily-white town where I grew up I heard constant anti-black, anti-jew, anti-asian comments. To my credit, and to my brother's also, we never participated in this. And I got into more than a few fights when someone made a slur against jews. My brother did too. I have never really gotten over growing up in an environment where people hated me because of my religion.

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