Parks’ activism still resonating

There are people who in one day change the world forever. Some do it by standing up for what they believe in, while others do it by sitting down.

Rosa Parks, the mother of the civil rights movement, died last Monday at the age of 92.

Nearly 50 years ago, Parks boarded a bus in Montgomery, Ala., unaware of the ripple she was about to set forth in history.

She took a seat in the “colored” section of the bus after a day’s work as a seamstress at a local department store. When the bus stopped, a group of whites boarded and the driver told Parks to stand. She refused and was arrested.

This simple act of defiance generated a spark for the civil rights movement and epitomized the effectiveness of non-violent resistance.

Martin Luther King Jr., then a little-known Baptist minister, followed Parks’ arrest with a 381-day bus boycott that ended with a Supreme Court decision to strike down the Alabama segregation law.

People say that Parks, a long-time civil rights activist, was tired after a hard day at work. They say she refused to budge because her feet hurt. That simply was not true.

“Anyone who works a full day at the type of job I had would be weary,” she said in 1984. “But the utmost thought in my mind was that the time was far spent for all of us as a people to be treated as human beings.”

Sadly, the dreams of the civil rights movement may be far spent in our time, even after the monumental efforts of Parks and King. Although most segregation laws have been taken from the books, America is still divided by racial lines in many ways.

Walk into any cafeteria on campus and you’ll find students sitting along racial lines. Take a stroll around campus and you’ll find a similar habit of students to gather in homogenous clusters.

While most students do this to stay in their comfort zones, and not because of racism, it illustrates how far we are from integration.

Parks’ life showed how one person, with one action, can alter an entire society. Her death gives us a moment to stop, think and realize that we have a long way to go to true racial integration and understanding.

Before we let the embers of the civil rights movement fade away, perhaps we ought to re-examine the priority that outreach plays in our own lives and contemplate the ways by which we may build the bridges for which Parks and King laid the foundations decades ago.