Honoring the legacy of Rosa Parks

by Beacon Staff • October 26, 2005

Parks devoted much of her life to the fight for social justice.,"Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks died on Monday at the age of 92. Best known for refusing to move to the back of a bus on Dec. 1, 1955, Parks lit a spark under the Civil Rights movement that forever altered the course of American history.

Parks devoted much of her life to the fight for social justice. She worked for the Alabama National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and attended Highlander Folk School, an education center for racial equality. Her impact on America cannot be understated. After her death, U.S. Representative Charles Rangel was quoted in The Boston Globe as saying, "I truly believe there is a little Rosa Parks in all Americans who have the courage to say enough is enough and stand up for what they believe in."

While her passing does give us a chance to pause and reflect on the progress that has been made in minority rights over the years, we must also be aware that there is more to do if we wish to bring about racial equality in America.

Racism is still alive in America. Hate and prejudice have cast a dark shadow on our country for hundreds of years, and our nation still carries with it the scars of slavery and segregation from the past. But, it is not simply scars that mar our nation. More modern examples of racism, such as the beating of Rodney King in 1991 or the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina this year, continue to remind us that there is a great deal of work to be done in the fight for racial equality in America.

Last March, the Emerson community was subjected to racism when two Emerson students returned from spring break to find racial slurs painted on a board hanging from their dorm room door.

Nationally, we still suffer from racial inequality in the workplace, with blacks generally earning less money than whites.

According to a poll done by The Associated Press in March, the average white male with a bachelor's degree earns at least $20,000 more than a black male with the same degree. This is one of many factors that have led to a disproportionate amount of blacks struggling to get by. In 2004, 24.7 percent of blacks lived in poverty compared to only 8.6 percent of whites, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

There is also injustice in the criminal justice system.

For example, while blacks only make up 12.1 percent of the population, they account for 47 percent of inmates serving time for drug offenses in state prisons, according of the U.S. Department of Justice. Although Rosa Parks is no longer with us, it is important that we keep her memory alive. As she once said, "Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others." If we hope to achieve racial equality, it is imperative that our generation continues Rosa Parks' fight.

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