Rosa Parks and the end of an era
Memorial services for Rosa Parks have been going on all over the country, and rightfully so. As an individual Rosa was a remarkable person. As a symbol of the civil rights era, she along with all the brave souls who fought to enshrine equal rights for people of all races in this country, deserve recognition. While it is good to reflect on where we we came from, what we overcame, and how far we've progressed it is also important to remember that the fight is not over.
Every once in a while, I overhear a teenager saying something like "What's the big deal with all this racism stuff? If anyone is racist, it's black kids." There seems to be a broad lack of knowledge among our younger people about the conditions that led to the civil rights movement, the upheavals around bussing and desegregation, the ongoing systemic forces that work to keep certain groups disadvantaged, and the extent to which individual racism is still a major problem in our country.
It's probably too much to ask of the public school systems, which are increasingly teaching as to produce an obedient, unquestioning, 100% attendant work-force. I'm sure my own consciousness was raised not by my teachers, but by the nightly news where I saw my nieghbors in the supposedly liberal Boston rioting simply because their kids were going to sit next to black kids in schools. Not to mention the horrific images coming out of South Africa.
As a Muslim, I am at the receiving end of racism from time to time. But more often, I am reminded of the priviledge white people are accorded, whether it's an exemption from automatic "random" searches at the airport (I only get randomly searched about half the time I fly), or the interest people take in white converts to Islam (as opposed to African American converts, who make up a much greater number. Even Latino converts get more press than our black brothers and sisters.), whether it is the welcome that immigrant communities give white converts, especially women converts, making them spokespeople for the community, or the benefit of the doubt I get from your average American.
I try to teach my kids about racism and the effects is has had and continues to have on our world. I hope others do to.