Rosa Parks is one of the pioneers of the civil rights movement. Today Emma and Brittany talk about what made her so special.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Brittany: Hi, Emma.

Emma: Hi, Brittany.

Brittany: So, we haven’t talked about a hero in a while actually. I’ve noticed we’ve been talking about so many crazy things going on in the news, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be any end in sight to that. So I thought we would talk about a hero today. So today I wanna talk about Rosa Parks and you know, some of you might be familiar with her already, but let’s just dive right in. So for starters, Rosa Parks is thought of as like the first Lady of Civil rights. And, in a very contentious time in our country, she stood up for what was right, even if it meant having to face a lot of legal consequences. So there was a time not so long ago when the southern states were segregated by race. And what that means is segregation is, in the south was when all public like goods, so were separated into like whites only and blacks only. So this covered pretty much anything like drinking fountains. You had two, you had one for white people, one for black people, and schools were even segregated and public bathrooms. And these weren’t public, but even many restaurants like, and businesses said like, no, you can only come in if you’re white. So it was a very weird time. I mean, it’s crazy for us to think about now just because it seems so outrageous. And it wasn’t even just like, okay, these are the rules. It was like you go to jail if you disobey them. So this was hard and it was also very dehumanizing for black people. And dehumanizing means that it made them feel like less than human cuz they weren’t treated as equals. You know, dehumanizing. Connor and I talked about the Holocaust. A lot of what was done to the Jewish people during the Holocaust was meant to dehumanize them, make them feel less than than everybody else. So that’s just horrible. But can you imagine, I mean, how hard that must have been? I can’t even imagine. So Rosa lived in Montgomery, Alabama and one day in 1955 on her way home from work, she got on a bus like any other day and she sat in the black section. So the first, like several rows of the bus were for white people. And then in the middle, towards the back is where the blacks only section started. So as the bus started to fill up, the white section actually was out of room. So the bus driver went to the first row of the black section where Rosa was sitting and basically said, you need to go to the back of the bus cuz we need to give your seats to the white passengers. So when she was asked to move, she was determined to stay where she was. It was one of those days, I don’t know if you felt this way, Emma, where you’re just like, I’ve had enough, like, you, you don’t plan to like make a statement, right? You just wake up and you do your regular thing and then something happens and you’re like, you know what? I’m not gonna put up with this today. Yeah. You know, I’ve had days like not, I mean not, I wasn’t like a martyr for a cause, but I felt like it, it was a personal cause. So she thought of like all the violence that was being committed against other black people across the country. I think there had just been, a really terrible violent crime and it just all kind of started to bubble up and she was tired of the racism everywhere in the south. So she refused to move, she just said no. So the driver threatened to call the police, even though, here’s the kind of funny part about this. She wasn’t in the whites only section, she was still in her section. She just wouldn’t move to make room, so. Wow. That gets kind of tricky if you look at like, she didn’t technically break the law, but so the driver threatened to call the police and I love this part. She said like, go ahead and call. Like go do it. So the cops called and she was arrested and as she wrote in her autobiography, people always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired. But that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then I was 42. No, the only tired I was was tired of giving in. So then, yeah, and this is a interesting part. So she asked the officer, she said, you know, why are you doing this? Why are you enforcing these these laws? Why are you picking on us? And he didn’t have a good answer. He literally said, I don’t know, but it’s the law. And that reminded me, you know, we’ve talked in the past episode you O’Connor and I about like the, I’m just following orders. Yeah. argument. And you know, you have a lot of police officers who say that they enforce bad laws. And then when people ask, why are you doing this? I was just following orders when the Nazis, we talked about Nuremberg trial, Connor and I a couple weeks ago . And that was a big thing. Can you say you were just following orders if you did terrible things to people. Is that a good excuse? And I mean, I am pretty sure I know how you feel about this. I feel that is not a good excuse. I don’t know about you.

Emma: No, definitely not. I think it’s not quite enough to just point the blame to the other people. I think we all have to answer for our own actions.

Brittany: Exactly. And you know, even if you are threatened with, you know, prison time or death, you still have the opportunity to say No, I’m not gonna enforce that law. And honestly exactly. Police officers have a really important job to say that to say like, no, I’m not gonna enforce this law. This is not a good law. So that unfortunately did not happen in this case. The police officer did not stand up and she wasn’t gonna put up with it anymore. So she was prepared to go to jail if that’s what it meant.

Emma: Yeah. And she’s such a good example. We’re kind of talking right now about not following orders. If, they’re bad orders, that would sort of be a form of civil disobedience. And that’s what we call what Rosa Parks did as well. And it’s basically this idea that if there’s a law that’s unjust or that’s that’s bad or that’s targeting people unfairly, you should find a peaceful way of breaking the law and and not comply with it. And that’s been a big theme that we’ve seen a lot of, even throughout COVID. Not to compare COVID to what people went through in the sixties. I think they’re very different things. But I do think it’s important to sort of look at the, the commonalities between, you know, when the government is unfairly targeting certain people, what do you do about it? Like what’s the right response? And this is a huge theme even in the Tuttle twins learn about the law, they talk about good laws and bad laws and where our rights come from. But civil disobedience is a super important thing when we talk about this stuff. And this was not Rosa Parks’ first act of civil disobedience. So in the forties, the 1940s, she had another incident on the bus where she entered through the front door and was told that she needed to enter through the black door in the back. And when she followed the driver’s instructions, he drove off without her before she could even enter the bus. And she didn’t realize during the second time that the same bus driver was involved in both incidents.

Brittany: Isn’t that crazy? Yes. And they were like 10 years apart.

Emma: That is really wild. Wow. I never knew that. But after she was arrested for breaking the Alabama law, the other black activists bailed her out. So she was later charged with disorderly conduct and fined, but the community rallied and boycotted the city buses even though it rained in the first day. So a boycott on a sunny day would be a lot easier than a boycott on a rainy day. And they boycotted the bus system for 381 days, which is over a year, which is very significant, all kinds of weather. And she tried to appeal her case, but unfortunately it got stuck in the legal system and never made it to trial. But in 1956, another case dealing with bus segregation went to court and it was decided that the law was a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Law, which basically prevents the government from treating different people differently because of their race. So huge deal what she did. And I think, I think even though her case specifically didn’t make its way through the court system, it definitely helped play the groundwork for, all of these corrupt laws to eventually be turned over.

Brittany: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And you know, parks played a very important role in the civil rights movement, which it was already getting, like it was already going on, it was already, you know, getting started. But this was a big moment for people. And it’s funny cause you think about it, she didn’t do anything particularly, you know, she didn’t stand up to guns, she didn’t do you know that, but all she did was say no. And that in and itself was such a big moment in history for the civil rights and it helped her gain the respect of a lot of black leaders at the time. Like Martin Luther King Jr. but she had no idea the example she was setting. Right? She wasn’t trying to be a hero, she was just sick and tired of the way she was being treated. So, I love this quote from her cause I think it just shows how humble she was. She said, I had no idea history was being made, I was just tired of giving up. So I love that. Isn’t that great? So Rosa Parks did something I think a lot of activists today don’t do. So people love to sit and criticize actions they don’t like. Right. But they don’t do any meaningful action. And unfortunately that’s become so easy today because you can just scroll through Twitter and scroll through social media and be outraged about something and post about how outraged you are and, you know, change your profile picture. I keep laughing cuz people keep changing their profile picture to like Ukraine. I’m thinking like, that’ll show Putin . Like, and I get that people wanna help and it’s so funny cuz I’m like, these things don’t do anything. So it didn’t, these don’t translate into meaningful actions. But Rosa Parks did something amazing. She enacted change by, instead of, so I just messed up that quote, excuse me. So she realized that the best way to enact change is to criticize by creating, which is one of my favorite sayings in the world. So Rosa didn’t just sit and complain, she acted and she helped create change that inspired a growing movement. So it’s one thing to sit and criticize, it’s another thing to say, you know, instead of sitting here and complaining, I’m actually gonna be that change that I want to see happen. And I think this is a lesson we can all see today, especially like I mentioned in a time when we’ve all kind of become what’s what’s called keyboard activists. You know, we’re all typing things, but we’re not doing anything. Well, I say we, some of us are. So I think that’s a really important lesson and again, that it doesn’t take a big action to be a hero. Right? She didn’t, do some grand thing, shouldn’t even do like a march, you know, on Washington. Like, like Martin Luther King Jr. Did. She just said no and changed history.

Emma: That’s what I love about Rosa Parks is that she took this simple thing that was unfair and unjust and she stood up for herself and sparked this huge movement. I think it’s super inspiring and it’s a good reminder to us that the little things really do matter and they do add up and you know if something is wrong, even if it’s a small thing, I mean, not to say that it’s a small thing what she was dealing with, but if even if something is an everyday matter, it’s a matter of, you know, your daily life, that doesn’t mean that it’s insignificant. So I think it’s awesome example to look to, especially in crazy times. Like right now, people like Rosa Parks are such an inspiration. So I am grateful that we have her to read about and learn about and look up to. And thank you guys all for listening to us talk about her and we’ll talk to you all again soon.

Brittany: Talk to you soon.