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Neues Deutschland, Germany

Tired of Giving In”


By Max Böhnel

Except for a few minor memorial services and a commemorative postage stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service, the 100th anniversary of Rosa Parks' birthday is being largely ignored in the United States.

Translated By Ron Argentati

4 February 2013

Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard


Germany - Neues Deutschland - Original Article (German)

After her death eight years ago, many in the mainstream media referred to her as an inconspicuous seamstress who refused to give up her seat on a bus because she was tired. When she refused to give her seat up to a white man, she was 42 years old and had lived a politically aware life. As a young girl, she knew what the Ku Klux Klan was. In her autobiography, she wrote that her grandfather kept a shotgun in the house just in case. She married a civil rights activist in the 1930s, joined the NAACP in Montgomery, Alabama in 1943 and served as a leader there until 1957. She kept close ties to the Communist Party of Alabama, a group that served as a model of anti-racism and actively promoted African-American civil rights.

Shortly before her act of civil disobedience, she had begun attending political training courses at a school in Tennessee. There she met black and white civil rights activists, as well as liberals, who also wanted to overcome racial and social divides in society with proven resistance strategies. She later explained why she simply refused to give up her seat to a white man on the bus she was riding on her way from work by saying, “No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

It took another nine years before the Civil Rights Act, guaranteeing all Americans equality regardless of skin color, became law. In any case, Rosa Parks is considered to be the first lady of civil rights and the mother of the freedom movement.

Whether the first African-American president shares that honor now, at the start of his second term, is as yet unclear. Ninety-three percent of African-Americans voted for him and now say he has an obligation.

The disappointing first four years under Obama were marked by the economic crisis and the enduring social chasm separating whites from blacks in America. Three times as many blacks as whites live in poverty. Blacks hold only three percent of leadership positions in politics and business but, with a million prisoners serving time in American institutions, they make up nearly 50 percent of the prison population. Compared to whites, many more black youths are hooked on drugs or are likely to drop out of school before graduation.

Nearly 40 percent of African-American children live below the poverty line. The National Urban League notes that twice as many blacks are unemployed when compared to whites. The net worth of black households has declined by nearly 50 percent in recent years, while white households have seen less than a 20 percent reduction.

Meanwhile, African-Americans comprise 13 percent of the total population — and they are not immigrants. They have been a part of American society for centuries. Social scientists refer to this as institutionalized racism or a continuation of racial segregation. Despite formal equality along with corresponding federal programs, the face of extreme poverty in the United States remains black. Furthermore, a half century after the successes of the civil rights movement, it is the public schools, of all places, that remain the most segregated of all institutions.

An African-American president like Obama can apparently not change this devastating situation. If Obama has thus far hesitated to do more for black interests, out of concern for the white voters who support him, he will continue to avoid addressing structural racism and poverty in the future, and rely on appeals for individual morality and “personal responsibility.”



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