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The race is recognized as a social and historical construct that allows racism to take place and be heavily influenced by cultural ideologies. With the long history of racialization and discrimination, in which race has been produced as a meaningful marker of social difference and inequality it has been proven that activism is politically and socially essential for society. The tireless efforts of several activists who often face jail time, beatings, and in some cases death have influenced important events that have allowed individuals to be given equal opportunities and rights. Among the hundreds of activists who fought for equality, Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, an American activist in the civil rights movement helped change the lives of the majority of African Americans and helped gain equality for all men and women throughout the world. In this essay, I will assess the first-hand challenges that Rosa Parks faced of the interconnected social categorizations that include race, gender, and class as she sought justice for all the Black victims who were discriminated against and racialized
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks decided to remain seated as she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. Her decision that day led to one of the largest social movements in history, the Montgomery Bus Boycott protest. According to “A Rosa Parks Moment? School Choice and the Marketization of Civil Rights” By Scott, Janelle T, even though Park’s decision marked one of the most important days of history, the event had been misunderstood as a single moment that had taken place but in reality, it was the result of long-term, continuous discrimination she had to fight against daily. Growing up, Parks faced the first-hand challenges of being a Black woman as she was brought up with the early experience of racial discrimination and activism for racial equality. As a child, she witnessed her grandfather being shot as he stood in front of their house as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) marched down her street. She faced further oppression during her education as she attended segregated schools. She attended a one-room school where there was a lack of essentials school supplies such as desks and chairs. Students there were forced to walk to the six-grade schoolhouse, while the city provided transportation along with a new building with all required resources for the white students. Rosa Parks first got her job after she had to quit school due to her grandparent’s illness. After that, she decided to work at a t-shirt factory rather than going back to school. At work, Parks was constantly discriminated against as she was forced to give up her seat on the bus or when she had to wait long hours when the bus passed by her without stopping before and after she finished her work. She was constantly subjected to racism and made to feel different because of her racial and ethnic background. Due to this continuous discrimination she faced on daily she not only refused to give up her seat but the constant oppression she dealt with led her to dedicate years of her life to seeking justice for not only for Black victims but also for sexual violence that Black women were faced with due to their color, race, and gender.
In the article “Black Feminism and Intersectionality” by Sharon Smith, Smith argues that intersectionality is not just a concept but it describes the multiple ways in which oppression is experienced. Oppressions such as race, gender, class, color, and religion all work together to create unfairness and inequality among individuals. Throughout history, Black women were faced with discrimination, racialization, and rape by white individuals and Rosa Parks was no stranger to that. Growing up she faced systemic discrimination not only because she was Black, but also because she was poor and mainly because she was a girl. Due to this Rosa Park had dedicated many years of her life to helping women during the civil rights movement. She spent years of her life trying to collect testimonies from girls who had been sexually harassed and she further went on to encourage and advise them to speak up and fight against sexual assault/violence. According to “My Shero: Rosa Parks and Her Untold Story”, after Parks had become the branch secretary, she dedicated 12 years of her life seeking justice for Black women who had been victims of sexual violence. She spoke out against Black men who wrongfully accused women and she fought for the desegregation of schools and public spaces. Because of her and many other female activists who committed their whole life fighting for justice, movements today such as the #MeToo, the Women’s March, and #Times Up Initiative, can fight for the right and equality for women. The movements and organizations that Rosa Parks created and now influenced all fight to end the interconnected social categorizations that are used to discriminate individuals.
Rosa Parks’ decision to remain seated that day led to the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott. This civil rights protest was to speak against segregated seating during the time African Americans were not allowed to ride city buses in Montgomery. The protest Rosa Parks influenced had resulted in the U.S Supreme Court integrating the bus systems which highlighted the beginning of racial equality. Rosa Parks became a huge symbol of the civil rights movement and she is known as “the first lady of the civil rights movement” and the “mother of the freedom movement”. The civil rights movement was a huge win for the Black community as it was a step toward ending racial discrimination and gaining equal rights under the law. According to “What’s Feminism done for (For me) Lately?” by Victoria L. Bromley, “Federal Legislation, culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, made racial segregation in school, workplaces, and public facilities illegal and prohibited discrimination on the basis of race. It also made discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, or national origin illegal”. Rosa Parks further joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) where she became the chapter secretary. She worked closely with the president of the chapter, Edgar Daniel Nixon who was a famous advocate for Blacks who wanted to vote. Even today, Rosa Park’s dedication to ending racial discrimination and inequality is still embedded in our society. Her decision to remain seated which ended segregated seating on transportation is now used as mandatory education for police officers in Montgomery. Her bravery and dedication changed not only the lives of the Black community but also of those who are discriminated against for their sexuality, race, religion, culture, background, ethnicity, and much more.
In conclusion, activism is important to end and raise awareness towards racialization and discrimination that emerge from interconnected social categorizations that include race, gender, and class. Rosa Parks is a major symbol of the civil rights movement who dedicated her life to fighting the injustice and discrimination that she and the Black community had to face daily. She put her life to risk while fighting for women who did not have a voice and encouraged them to fight and advocate for themselves and their rights. Her legacy is still embedded in our society till today as it has influenced major movements today that follow the footsteps of Rosa Park that advocate and fight to end racialization and discrimination towards individuals.
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