Thursday, November 03, 2005

Rosa Parks -who will take up Your mission?

At a time when black people in this country still suffered systematic discrimination, Rosa Parks' courageous refusal to yield her bus seat to a white man triggered a revolution whose seeds were planted centuries earlier. Awakening to the thunder of Rosa's simple act, other blacks, long denied equal treatment by law and culture, arose with new hope and strength to demand justice from a capricious and negligent judge. Rosa couldn't have foreseen how effective was the blow she struck against the structures of injustice arrayed against her people.

Rosa's witness was about not only the God-endowed dignity of black persons, but the great and equal dignity of all persons, regardless of color or status. But after her prophetic witness and the subsequent victories of the civil rights movement, how is it that so many Americans -black and white- reject its truth?

Among the dignitaries who incensed the tomb of Rosa with panegyrics and poses were many –even blacks!- who publicly defend the lie that deliberately aborting one’s child is not murder but an inalienable right worthy of jealous protection. Doubtless this is how many slaveowners felt about their right to own slaves.

Many blacks have suffered much in the battle to throw off oppression. How is it that in light of our national history, black people -or any Americans- can ignore the oppression of the unborn? How can the descendents of slaves fail to rise up in righteous anger against laws that tolerate a power of life or death over the defenseless? If it is intolerable for one man to own another as property, is it not also intolerable for a man or woman to kill a child?

We need another Rosa right now, another Moses speaking truth to power, prepared to confront and denounce every pharoah who defends the killing of our posterity. We need a Rosa who can ignite in all of us a burning passion to secure justice not only for ourselves but also for our children.

It would be somehow fitting and beautiful if this new Rosa were female and black. But any color would do.

(This article appeared in Catholic Explorer, 18 November 2005.)

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