While we were wading through the remnants of #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies and waiting for “The Wiz” on NBC we almost forgot that December 1st marked the sixtieth anniversary of the day Rosa Parks boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama and said to driver James Blake — “Nah.”
While the actual quote may have been slightly different, every year I like to remind people that Rosa was not just some lady who happened to be caught in a landmark incident. Since childhood she had a long history of fighting for freedom and racial justice. Her family members supported Marcus Garvey. She married an activist for the Scottsboro Boys and even joined the Black Power movement later in life.
Yes, Rosa Parks was a G.
I can’t help but wonder what Rosa would think of this generation and how we have carried (or dropped) the torch handed to us by the movement she sparked, but after the last few days of media stories and controversies I know what her perception of the people of this era would be:
We some bitches.
When someone forwarded me the clip of a toddler being robbed of what I assume was a deeply discounted vegetable juicer, all I could think was “Damn, I hope they don’t have wi-fi in the part of heaven Rosa is in.” I wasn’t concerned for the safety of the child or angry at the white lady who was dropping ‘bows” on a little Black baby barely out of pull-ups. My initial reaction was:
“I thought we were supposed to be boycotting Black Friday?”
During the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 90% of Black people refused to ride on the city’s buses. Since then, activists and organizers have been trying to explain to anyone who would listen that if we could unite and flex the power of the Black dollar, it could bring about substantial change quickly. I’m sure the Chicago protests that seriously dented the pockets of one of the country’s most famous retail districts in reaction to the execution of Laquan McDonald put a smile on Mrs. Parks’ face. Organizers around the country spent all of 2015 getting the word out about not spending money on the busiest shopping day of the year, and the hashtag #NotOneDime was even trending on Twitter late Thursday.
Just when we were sticking our collective chests out, we were bombarded with images this motherfucker in Wal-Mart bear-hugging 2 cheap kitchen gadgets, kung fu-ing over a juice extractor like she’s training her son for the Hunger Games. Because I am a diligent journalist (really because I’m Petty Pendergrass) I went online and checked the price of the juicer at the center of the melee.
It retails for $39.
I’m not sure of the math for anything I can’t count on my fingers, but I’m willing to bet that if we adjusted for inflation, Sister Rosa lost more than $39 by getting kicked off the Cleveland Avenue bus that day. My shame does not stem solely from this anonymous judo-juicing woman. She is just indicative of the scores of shameless folks who didn’t adhere to a nationwide boycott because they might save seventeen dollars on a flat screen. I hope Rosa thinks this new generation is just frugal instead of selfish, air-conditioned, assimilated wimps not willing to sacrifice a good deal to further the cause of freedom for their people, but I doubt she thinks that. I bet you one of my fellow Petty Shabazzes probably showed Rosa that video and she just shook her head while it buffered. (Youtube buffers everywhere when you really want to see a video. Even in the heavenly 802.11n wi-fi behind the pearly gates) Even when we are trying to stand in solidarity there will be those few fighting to get into Walmart to break boycotts and undermine the efforts of many for the stocking stuffers of the few. Rosa saw that, and knows — We some bitches.
By Sunday evening I had almost overcome my shame when I sat down to check out the Soul Train Awards.
OK, I’ll be honest with you — I didn’t watch no damn Soul Train Awards. The Soul Train Awards are like the BET Awards’ uncle who still wears a shag haircut and smokes Benson & Hedges menthol. I always say I’m gonna watch them, but not really. And I’m glad I didn’t, because I probably would’ve thrown my leftover Thanksgiving macaroni at my TV when Erykah Badu introduced R. Kelly by saying “this man has done more for Blacks than anyone…”
From what I’ve read about her, I believe Rosa Parks was a good, Christian woman. When I picture her in my mind she’s even wearing those extra-white thick-soled shoes only worn by church ushers and nurses, and her shoulders are covered by a knitted shawl. I imagine her as a demure, tasteful woman, but I know when she heard that introduction, she said, “what the fuck???” I know I did.
What the hell has R. Kelly ever done for Black people besides popularize the golden shower? He performed at a venue near me recently and I kept receiving emails about tickets. They were pretty cheap, and I assumed it was because no one is fucking with R. Kelly anymore. I know some of us still shop at the racial-profiling mecca Barney’s and pop bottles of jigaboo-shunning Cristal, but I knew in my heart of hearts that — no matter how catchy the hook was — we just don’t fuck with R. anymore. I watch Locked Up and saw every episode of Oz, so I know pedophiles are treated the worst by every form of society. Apparently I was wrong. He is selling music and tickets across the country because we will still dole out dollar bills and standing ovations to anyone, no matter what they do to our people. Even our children. If we didn’t ostracize R. Kelly for committing the most heinous act imaginable and putting it on tape (I’m referring to the Trapped in the Closet series) at least we have the responsibility of not putting him on stage and applauding the motherfucker. But we won’t do that. Because we’re bitches.
“But that was just one incident,” I said to myself after hearing about the Soul Train Awards, and tried to sleep off my embarrassment. I awoke to a national story about a group of over 100 Black religious leaders who were having a private meeting with Donald Trump. I remembered that the Montgomery boycott, and much of the resistance for racial equality, were organized by the ministers and pastors of Black churches, so I know the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement was just pacing back and forth on the streets paved with gold, muttering “these motherfuckers… these motherfuckers…” over and over again.
I’m not saying I think Donald Trump is racist.
I’m saying I know Donald Trump is a racist, and you do too. To see these men and women aligning themselves with someone who once said “laziness is a trait in Blacks” and trumpeted how he hated blacks counting his money for the promise of — I-have-no-idea-what — illustrates how easily anyone can become a “leader” in this new generation of followers. Then again, if you attend a church whose pastor wants to attend a private “Make America Great Again” meeting — “I support Donald Trump” probably isn’t the craziest shit you’ve heard from your pulpit. The congregations of Martin Luther King and Abernathy have morphed into followers of Omarosa and Creflo DOllar — and I know what Rosa must think of them.
The sad part about all of this is, no one seems to be embarrassed. We think of the Montgomery Boycott like George Washington crossing the Delaware or Tupac shooting at the Atlanta police — A semi-fictional legendary story from a time long ago. When this anniversary comes, we should all reflect on Rosa Parks’ courage, examine our lives from her perspective and ask ourselves what she would think of our sacrifices.
Rosa would be disgusted with the soft, placated, disunity that prevent us from getting much further than we were sixty years ago. She would be ashamed.
Because Rosa thinks we’re bitches.