One person of substance can change the world

Fifty years ago, there was a day that began just like every other day in the life of the diminutive black lady in a southern city, where people of her color suffered indignities on a daily basis. It was 1955, and the struggle for civil rights was in its infancy.

But it wasn't something she thought about constantly; she had enough to do to get to work each day and make a living. There were many others of her race that were involved in organized movements and protests that would, little by little, make progress toward a time when there would be justice for all.

On her way to work that day, she passed places she knew were not open to her. There were diners in which she was not allowed to eat, clothing stores where she was not allowed to shop, even water fountains she could not legally drink from. "White only," and "colored only," signs littered the landscape, proclaiming to the world the dominance of the ruling group. A deep feeling of hopelessness came over her every time she looked at them. Every day of her life she faced the constant reminder that she and others of her color were inferior to the race that had enslaved them less than a century ago.

After another day filled with indignities and abuses, she headed back home, using the method of transportation that ended each of her days with but one more symbol of her inferiority.                 

When she paid her fare and began to walk the narrow aisle of the Montgomery, Alabama city bus, she saw the group of blacks standing in the rear holding onto stanchions as the bus accelerated. All the 'colored' seats were taken, but there was an unoccupied seat in the front "white only" section and she wanted so much to get off her feet. It had been a grueling day at her job, not only because of the time she had spent standing, but also because of another constant assault on her pride as a human being.

As she stood there staring at the segregation she had seen and endured all her life, a sudden spirit of defiance took hold of her. She was a human being who had rights bestowed on her by her Creator. No other human being had the right to humiliate her, and rob her of her humanity. Suddenly she decided she had endured enough and would not allow herself to be treated this way any longer. After a life filled with the crunching hammer of merciless discrimination, she decided she could take it no more.                                            

With the power of righteousness flowing through her veins, she fearlessly walked down the aisle and sat in the empty seat. Gasps came from the white and the colored sections as she folded her arms in utter contempt for a system that would cause such consternation among people over such an innocent act. The driver ordered her to get up and go to the back of the bus, but the courageous lady refused to budge.

The whites looked at her with disgust, while the blacks watched in awe. The driver pulled the bus to the side of the street and flagged down a police car. When she refused to comply with orders from the police, she was arrested. As she was taken off the vehicle, the officer was recording some information for his report.

I can only imagine the dialogue: "Yunno, people like you are just troublemakers. You think your making some kind of statement by doing this? This won't change anything. The law is the law, and the sooner you people realize it, the better off you'll be. You just got yourself arrested for nothin', cause this action ain't gonna change a thing. Now, what's your name?"

I imagine the woman took a deep breath, held her head up high, and said, "Rosa Parks." When the police officers drove away with the feisty little lady sitting in the rear seat, little did they know they were heading in the direction of destiny. Rosa Parks passed away this week at the age of 92. She leaves a legacy of courage that is symbolized by the paraphrased words of Edmund Burke: All that's necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the excutive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas.