Like many Americans, I am deeply saddened by the passing of Rosa Parks. By refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in the segregated South, she defined courage in defying an unjust system. Active in the NAACP, she was well aware of the consequences of even this simple act of civil disobedience.
She knew that other blacks had been imprisoned — and worse — for defying Jim Crow laws. In the 1950s, angry white mobs still lynched black men. Cops regularly beat African-American protesters. And if a black woman was raped by a white man, she had little (if any) recourse to the justice system. Thus, the simple act of refusing to give up her seat took great courage. She had no idea what punishment she would face. And no idea that her defiance would rally her community — and inspire the nation.
I am delighted that America today recognizes the significance of her refusal to stand. She was the first woman, the first African-American, to lay in state in the Capitol rotunda. The president and congressional leaders came to pay tribute. CNN covered much of her funeral live.
As we recall this great lady, let us above all salute her courage. Today, we bandy the word courage about to describe anyone who takes a stand. Log Cabin seems to call any Republican “courageous” who disagrees with the GOP on gay issues. And yet, those individuals don’t face the consequences Rosa Parks did for refusing to give up her seat in the segregated South. I should know; I’m one of them. It didn’t take much courage for me to come out as gay to my fellow Republicans.
To be sure, there are many gay people whose very coming out is an act of courage. Those who risk losing the love and support of their families and communities. They are among the true heirs of Rosa Parks. Let us remember Ms. Parks for her simple courageous act which inspired a great movement and helped change America for the better.
And let her also become a reminder of what true courage is — doing what is right when such action likely invites severe consequences.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com