William M. Johnson
Event Organizer

[Col. Writ. 11/2/05] Copyright 2005 Mumia Abu-Jamal

There is something eerily unsettling about the national outpouring of mourning for the late civil rights pioneer, Rosa Parks. The flood of official faces -- those of politicians, makes me uneasy.

To look at the pinched faces of this parade of rednecks, many of them staunch conservatives, who have made their careers off of scuttling the hopes and dreams of Blacks, give their 'respects' at the bier of Rosa Parks gives a whole new meaning to 'crocodile tears'. Many of them didn't support civil rights in their youth, ran political campaigns on barely disguised themes that exploited white fears, helped to gerrymander whiter legislative districts, and once in power, pushed for more and more prisons -- but now they march before the body of Rosa Parks, as if they've supported her dreams and goals all of their lives!

It looks like the latest low in photo ops.

Right-wing warriors, who've helped erect and sustain this new era of neo-segregation, 'honoring' a woman who fought their ideas all of her life!

I say neo-segregation simply because while legal barriers have been erased since the old days, segregation *by class* still exists today, and can be seen in any urban elementary, middle, or high school in America. In many of these schools, 'education' is but a prompter for prison, and students learn, if anything at all, how much they are loathed by the society they're supposed to join if they are lucky enough to graduate.

School districts reflect housing patterns that are often equally as race and class segregated as are schools. Legal barriers may be no more, but barriers remain, as real as steel.

Sociologists teach us that while the Civil Rights Movement led to the development and emergence of a Black middle class, it left millions of others out in the cold, drowning in urban pits where this so-called 'revolution' passed them by. Indeed, while average incomes, home ownership, and educational attainments between whites and Blacks remain largely unchanged since the '60s, a gulf has grown between the Black middle class and the Black poor.

Rosa Parks, perhaps unwittingly, came to symbolize that distance in her later years when she filed suit against the hip-hop group OutKast, for the irreverent references to her in the title and an offhand lyric of a recent song. Their line, ('Awwww, shucks--hush that fuss, everybody git to the back of the bus!'), as well as their very name (OutKast) was a reflection of their alienation, and the growing distance between generation, class, and culture.

There are millions of Black young adults who grew up hearing about a "freedom" that was foreign to their experience. "Civil rights" was a grainy black and white filmstrip that they suffered through in school during February (if they went to school) or saw on TV.

As far as *this* society is concerned, they *are* outcasts.

Growing up in dire poverty, they *know* they aren't free. For, as writer Zora Neale Hurston wrote, "There is something about poverty that smells like death. Dead dreams dropping off the heart like leaves in a dry season..." That's what millions of them know. For them, "freedom" and "civil rights" are just words they may've heard from their grandmother. "Rosa Parks" is just a name. The grim and ugly struggle for survival in an era of de-industrialization, has pushed far too many black youth into the drug economy, where the promise of wealth is both hyped and heralded by both the music and movie industries.

A current hip-hop track, based upon the New York-based movie, "Paid in Full", performed by artists Akon and Young Jeezy, have a line that speaks volumes of the different world reflected in the Def Jam single, "Sole Survivor". A gruff-voiced rapper named Jeezy intones: "At night I can't sleep/ We livin' in hell;/ First they give us the work/ then they throw us in jail."

Symbols, even ones as splendid as Rosa Parks, are appropriated by politicians, who ignore her essence. Meanwhile, millions of Black and white youth, dance to a different beat; still at the back of the bus.

Copyright 2005 Mumia Abu-Jamal

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