“Of all our studies, history is best suited to reward our research.” – Minister Malcolm X
Next month, African America will celebrate the 63rd anniversary of day Rosa Parks sat down so that all of us could stand up.
Today, we venerate Rosa Parks’ actions on Friday, December 1, 1955. Considering his opposition to birthright citizenship, I don’t think that public veneration is shared by Mr. Trump, or any of his rally attendees.
Last year, the President of the United States of America issued this statement:
“Rosa Parks’s legacy continues to inspire our citizens to pursue a better tomorrow and to build a country where every American child — no matter their skin color — can live without fear, dream without limits and take their rightful place in the great story of our nation.”
Naturally, many Liberals and Left-leaning Americans look at those words and question Trump’s commitment to them. In fact, I would bet the issues Parks’ personal protest brought up in 1955 are perceived totally different by Trump, and his supporters, than by the current African American community. Miami Herald columnist, Leonard Pitts, received Trump’s statement as disingenious.
“Here comes the most meaningless sentence you’ll read today: Last week, Donald Trump paid tribute to Rosa Parks. It’s meaningless because Trump obviously has no real idea what Parks did or what it meant. If he did, he could never have cursed Colin Kaepernick.”
Pitts was born in 1957, the same year Parks left Alabama and moved to Detriot, Michigan. (Do you blame her for getting out of the Deep South?)
Trump was only nine years old when the Montgomery Bus Boycott forced itself into his childhood through the content of his parents’ conversations. Thanks to newspaper accounts of events and opinions, you and I can imagine the slant and view of those conversations. It is hard for me to believe that Daddy Trump had nice things to say about Rosa Parks and her “personal protest.” Everything about the protest challenged and threatened his worldview.
Real News in 1955
Monday, December 4, was the first day of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. By Wednesday, the impact of the boycott was being felt.
What follows is considered a straight news story. It is not opinion or what anyone in 1955 would call “fake news.” These are the facts. It was published on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 1955
“The arrest of a Negro who refused to move to the colored section of a city bus may bring a court test of segregated transportation in the cradle of confederacy.
While thousands of other Negroes boycotted Montgomery city lines in protest, Mrs. Rosa Parks was fined $14 in police court teiy for disregarding a driver’s order to move to the rear of a bus last Thursday.
Negro passengers ride In the rear fit buses here; white passengers ‘In front under a municipal segregation ordinance.
Along with the bus boycott, there were other threatened acts of retaliation by Negroes.
The boycott was organized after circulars were distributed in Negro residential areas Saturday urging “economic reprisal” against the bus company.
Mrs Parks appealed her $14 fine and was released under $100 bond signed by Negro attorney Fred Gray and a former state president of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, E. D. Nixon.
Gray and Charles Langford, another Negro lawyer representing the ‘ 42-year-old department store seamstress, refused to say” whether they plan to attack constitutionality of the segregation laws affecting (public transportation.)
But Gray told The Associated Press that, “Every issue will be raised that I think is necessary to defend my client.”
No hearing on the appeal has been set in Circuit Court.
The Supreme Court in Washington already has before it a test case against segregation of buses operating in Columbia, S. C. The U.S. Circuit Court of appeals in Richmond, Va., has ruled in this case that segregation must be ended. If the Supreme Court sustains the decision the effect will be to outlaw segregation in all states and cities.
The Negro woman was first charged with violating a city ordinance which gives bus drivers police powers to enforce racial segregation. But at the request of City Atty. Eugene Loe, the warrant was amended in court today to charge violation of a similar state law.
Passed by the Legislature In 1947, the state statute authorizes bus companies to provide and enforce separate facilities for white and Negro races. Violation is punishable by a maximum fine of $300.
Mrs. Parks was fined $10 and costs by Police Judge John Scott in a hearing that lasted only five minutes. Neither the defendant nor any other defense witnesses was called to testify.
Meanwhile, other Negroes by the thousands found other means of transportation or stayed home today in an organized boycott of City Lines buses, operated by a subsidiary of National City Lines at Chicago.” – The Morning Call, Dec. 6, 1955, published in Allentown, Pennsylvania
No photo ran with the story. You and I not being surprised a visual representation of a race-based conflict is absent, is consistent with the stereotype of White America popularized by the Civil Rights Movement. Remember, at the time of this news article, said stereotype did not exist. However, the material for the stereotype did exist, as the Movement eventually revealed proved.
Yes, our grandparents were acutely aware of the society they lived in and the terror produced in and by said society. Daily, egregious acts of racial violence were happening but racial violence was normalized, just like mass shootings are normalized today. The 1950s NAACP volunteers exhausted themselves trying to spark a national conversation on segregation and promote anti-lynching strategies, just like public safety advocates exhaust themselves today trying to spark a national conversation about American gun culture.
The Montgomery Advertiser Speaks
In Montgomery, Alabama itself, the reaction to Parks’ “personal protest” is expressed in the main newspaper. The editorial board writes:
“Of the Montgomery Bus boycott a number of things seem clear to The Advertiser.
It is a proud tradition of this old city in the bend of a yellow river that nowhere else in the country are the relations between different breeds and creeds so gentle,’ easy, and benign. To be sure there is some animosity and much that cannot be squared with the Christian ethic. But it is the minimum. Therefore is it rash to excite fears that become hostility. Strong measures beget strong measures.
The boycott makes an innocent sufferer of the bus company. Had the company defied city and state laws, its franchise would have been canceled. The quarrel of the Negroes is with the law. It is wrong to noid the company a hostage.
Segregation sentiment dominates Montgomery, and will for a long time to come.
A Negro spokesman, the Rev. M. L. King of the Dexter Avenue Methodist Church, who apparently speaks with no little authority, said yesterday, “We are not asking an end to segregation . . We don’t like the idea of Negroes having to stand when, there are vacant seats. We are demanding justice on that point.” If the grievance is confined to that, then attention should be given to it promptly. Any other grievance should be fairly heard.
Montgomery witnessed the dramatic event of the boycott with admirable and typical coolness. It Is well. For pro tests of this kind are going to be a commonplace of our state and community existence for ; long time to come, ours being a time of evolution in oldtime custom and usage.” – Opinion, Montgomery Advertiser, Dec. 8, 1955
They Are Racist and I Love Them
My more conservative friends caution me against judging their grandparents (Generation 8) by the same standards that I judge their behavior (Generation 10 and 11).
They know, just like I know, our grandparents were at odds. My grandparents were being oppressed, and my more conservative friends want me to handle that with a certain grace that allows them to deeply love their grandparents, while still acknowledging how steeped in racism their minds and hearts were, and in many ways still are.
The idea Generation 8 White America saw nothing wrong with racial violence and segregation is hinted at by the opening statement of the editorial. The white grandparents affirm in Montgomery, they like the race relations – they are excellent!
I marvel at the two dominating thoughts in their minds. (I saw these two thoughts echoed during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2014 and 2015. I see them echoed in social media comments under mass shooting articles.)
First, the Montgomery’s (so-called) White community was very concerned about the bus company itself being punished for the practice of segregational. A frame of innocence is placed around the business. It has employees. Those employees are being impacted by the boycott and that is not fair. They are not politicians or activists. The bus company employees should not be caught in a fight they have no power to influence.
Second, the editorial board is begging the (so-called) Negro community to accept segregation and respect the White Community’s authority. A frame of illegality is put on the movement through the description of Dr. King not being justified to speak in opposition to the law. The good White people of Montgomery are bearing the audacity of the Negro leadership and the boycott itself with a patience which is reinforces their idlyic worldview of race relations in their fair city.
Lastly, the editorial hints at a way out. If the Negro community chooses to focus on who is standing and sitting on the bus, in accordance to social custom and the law, everything can go back to normal. The threat to segregation evaporates.
Dinner Table Discussions with Daddy Trump
Interestingly enough, the boycott did not remain a local issue. The discrimination on public transportation was a common enough experience, the majority of Negro America could tell an individualized story about how it made them feel. The analysis did not have to be translated into politics, economics or gender. The humiliation of sitting where a (so-called) white person told you to sit, against your will, carried more impact than a marketing campaign ever could.
At some point, we can assume one of these news stores came across Daddy Trump’s desk and he discussed it. It is a stretch of logic to even entertain the idea Trump was so isolated in his family’s wealth the Civil Rights Movement did not touch his life. It did. The Civil Rights Movement dominated American society for 13 years.
During the first week of the boycott, I wonder if father and son discussed the nature of political protesting. Did the question of what behavior law enforcement judges permissible to maintain law and order. Maybe, because someone like Roy Cohn, was Daddy Trump’s friend, Baby Trump heard an argument explaining why Montgomery city government had to fight, meaning hold the line and make the Negroes conform to segregational law.
Fight back Montgomery’s business and political leadership did.
Peace Parley Fails In Bus Boycott
MONTGOMERY, Ala., Friday Dec 9
“Negro spokesmen-and bus company officials discussed segregation issues for four hours’ yesterday without reaching an agreement to end a five day old bus boycott.
The bus company rejected Negro demands that members of their race be hired as drivers on some routes heavily patronized by Negroes, and that seats on buses be put on a “first come, first served” basis.
The Rev. M. L. King con tended that “we are not trying change segregation laws. Butjwill we are trying to peacefully ar range better accommodations for Negroes. Montgomery Atty. Jack Crenshaw, representing Montgomery City Bus Lines, said such a systern would still violate the state statute which requires separate seating facilities for whites and Negroes.” – Oakland, Tribune, Dec. 9, 1955, pg. 15
The newspaper articles do not tell us in definitive terms how to judge this political contest as good or bad, legal or illegal, moral or sadistic. The reporters do not provide guidance on how to make the public decision demanded by the Montgomery Improvement Association – whom Dr. King was the spokespersons for. The articles do not do the hard work of thinking. We have to think and determine what issues Parks’ “personal protest” brought up then and what it brings up now.
Words by Kokayi Nosakhere