While we were wading through the remnants of #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies and waiting for “The Wiz” we almost forgot that December 1st marked the sixtieth anniversary of the day Rosa Parks boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama and said to James Blake - “Nah.”
While the actual quote may be 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 were supporters of 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 flexing the power of the Black dollar could bring about substantial change quickly. I’m sure the Chicago protests that seriously dented 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.
Then we see 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 just gonna say if we took the 1955 bus fare and adjusted for inflation, I bet Sister Rosa lost more than $39 by getting kicked off the Cleveland Avenue bus that day, and it is not just about 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, entitled wimps not willing to sacrifice a good deal to further the cause of freedom for their people, but I doubt she thinks that because I bet you one of my fellow Petty Shabazzes probably showed Rosa that video. There is probably good 802.11n wi-fi behind the pearly gates, so Rosa 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 thick-soled shoes that church ushers buy, and a white knitted shawl. I imagine her as a demure, tasteful woman, but I know when she heard that introduction, she said, “what the f***???” 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 pedophiles because I watch Locked Up and saw every episode of Oz. Apparently I was wrong. He is selling music and shows across the country because will still give people money and standing ovations no matter what they do to Black people. Even our children. 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 the embarrassment I felt. 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 was 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…” 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.” 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. I’m sure that fact pacified Rosa’s anger for a second.
The sad part about this is, no one is embarrassed because we remember the Montgomery Boycott like we remember George Washington crossing the Delaware or Tupac shooting at the Atlanta police: A semi-fictional legendary story from a time long ago. When this day comes, we should all reflect on her courage, examine our lives from her perspective and ask ourselves what Rosa would think of our sacrifices.
Rosa would be saddened.
Because Rosa thinks we’re bitches.