Rosa Parks’ world seems a million miles away. It’s hard to believe it was (just) less than fifty years ago that segregation was commonplace, that someone could be arrested for refusing to move to the back of the bus, that we accepted unequal treatment for citizens of our country based on the color of their skin.
Of course, in some ways, it still seems very real.
And it’s more apparent than ever that there is still a lot of work to do. That we have barely addressed the deep social injustices and divides that were reflected in the laws that Ms. Parks helped to erase, much less the economic factors that continue to put the lie to the image of the US as a land of prosperity and opportunity.
But if there is one lesson to be learned from Rosa Parks, it is this: sometimes even causes that have decades of rising social pressure on their side need a single person to stand up—or, in this case, keep her seat. One person doesn’t change the world, but one person can be the pivot on which the world starts to change.
(I decided to finish writing this even though I think David Weinberger has said it better.)