Rosa Parks died in late October, 50 years after her brave move to the front of that segregated Alabama bus. Her defiant act was the symbolic push the civil-rights movement needed. Her legacy is inspirational, but her funeral was a shameful spectacle.
In Detroit on Nov. 2, 4,000 gathered at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple to celebrate the life of Rosa Parks. But sometime during the tribute to Parks, the ceremony fell into a graceless political rally.
The message of Rosa Parks' courage in 1955 is a nonpartisan one. And yet, fanatical politics found their way into the ceremony via left-wing stalwarts. Al Sharpton, who has run for president as a Democrat, seemed to get moving on a pulpit strategy for another campaign at the funeral. He declared: "I heard somebody say Jim Crow is who she fought and Jim Crow is still around. But Jim Crow is old. That's not who I'm mindful of today. The problem is Jim Crow has sons."
The crowd went wild.
"One we gotta battle," Sharpton continued, "is James Crow Jr. Esq. He's a little more educated. He's a little slicker. He's a little more polished. But the results are the same. He doesn't put you in the back of the bus. He just puts referendums on the ballot to end affirmative action when you can't go to school. He doesn't call you a racial name, he just marginalizes your existence. He doesn't tell you that he's set against you, he sets up institutional racism. Where you have a nation respond looking for weapons in Iraq that are not there but can't see a hurricane in Louisiana that is there."
Ah yes. President Bush -- the same blind president who called the governor of Louisiana to insist on a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans -- didn't even see hurricane Katrina coming. Regardless, he was probably still looking for the weapons in Iraq. You know, the ones most of the Democratic politicians (Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Bill Clinton ... ), who also spoke at Rosa Parks funeral, thought were a threat too.
Sharpton went on to more specifically slap down the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which would amend the state's constitution to prohibit "state entities from discriminating or granting preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin." The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is, in truth, the logical continuation of any struggle for civil rights in America -- it's just. Al Sharpton would get that if he were a civil-rights leader. But don't let him fool you, he's just a left-wing demagogue.
Jesse Jackson, also a former Democratic presidential candidate, announced during his eulogy -- THE eulogy -- that the president had nominated "an extreme right-wing judge, antithetical to everything Rosa Parks ever stood for." Presumably Jackson was talking about Judge Samuel Alito, who President Bush had nominated the same week to the Supreme Court. Alito is for segregation? That's news to ... everyone. Jackson must have gotten swept away. That sometimes happens at political conventions. People get silly and carried away demonizing the guy they want to beat. But, oh wait. This wasn't a political convention.
It was a funeral.
Rosa Parks deserved better. Americans who can be well served by her example for decades to come deserve better.
In the December issue of Glamour, Geraldine Ferraro has it right.
Speaking of Rosa Parks, Ferraro tells Glamour, "I was very impressed when I met this giant of a woman, who was maybe 5'2." The Afghan and Iraqi women who are fighting for their rights are doing so in the tradition of Rosa Parks." I'm the type of gal that's conservative, Reagan-loving and rarely agrees with anything groups like the "National Organization for Women" have to say, but when the former Democratic vice-presidential candidate is right, she's right!
Ferraro gets it. While politicians play blame games over prewar intelligence, complete with childish public-relations stunts, and nonsensical rhetoric fills an otherwise beautiful event, folks here and abroad live the legacy of Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat at front of the bus, simply because it is was the right thing to do. It was the brave move someone needed to make.
And she made it. No one -- Democrat or Republican, black or white, American or Iraqi -- should be segregated from that inspiration.