To the end of her life, Parks continued to stress the enduring need for social change, reminding Americans “not [to] become comfortable with the gains we have made in the last forty years.” That lifetime of steadfastness and outrage, tenacity and bravery, is what deserves national veneration.
Doing justice to Parks’ actual legacy thus requires something of us — something much harder than a stamp or a statue. Rosa Parks’ courage was the ability to make an independent stand, even though she and others had done it before and nothing had changed, and even when she well-understood the harm that might befall her. She made those stands over and over throughout the course of her life.
Honoring her legacy means summoning similar audacity. It requires acknowledging that America is not a postracial society and that the blight of racial and social injustice is deep and manifest. It entails a profound recommitment to the goals for which she spent a lifetime fighting — a criminal justice system fair and just to people of color, unfettered voting rights, educational access and equity, real assistance to the poor, an end to U.S. wars of occupation and black history in all parts of school curricula. Finally, it means heeding her words to Spelman College students: “Don’t give up, and don’t say the movement is dead.”
From “Rosa Parks’ Stamp on American History" by Professor Jeanne Theoharris, in The Root today.