When, some years ago, Rosa Parks received the
Freedom Medal at the annual awards ceremony of the National Civil Rights Museum,
the one feature of her personality most often noted by those who greeted her was
her soft-spoken modesty. Parks, who died this week at the age of 92, was
anything but a firebrand. When she was arrested by Montgomery police in 1956 for
the crime of sitting in the Whites-Only section of a crowded city bus, the
explanation of this dignified African-American seamstress was the simplest --
and most persuasive -- imaginable: My feet were tired.
In later years, Parks would elaborate on her reasons for an action which sparked not only the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 -- which saw the coming to the fore of a new leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but may have inaugurated the modern Civil Rights movement itself. She had somehow understood, she said, that if she did not resist being mistreated on the day she was arrested, for the long-accepted reason of legalized bus segregation, then she and all the ordinary humble and oppressed like her, everywhere -- would end up being mistreated forever, for any and all reasons. The passive mode of her protest grew from that realization, and it changed the country and the world.
We were honored back in 1991 when Ms. Parks, a quietly inspiring senior presence, visited our city to receive her award. Simultaneously, she was received into our collective heart, a place she has never left.
When the state legislature reconvenes in January, it will be dealing with several thorny issues among them being the adjudication of a special state Senate election in Memphis District 29. In a race which captured the imagination of many citizens who dont normally concern themselves with politics, Republican Terry Roland ran close enough 13 votes -- to Democrat Ophelia Ford, a member of the well-known Ford political clan, that he felt justified in filing an appeal of the election.
Although we are not in a position to form
conclusions about Rolands claims of assorted improprieties, presumably the
six-member bipartisan state Senate panel charged with making recommendations to
the full Senate will be. The panel will have had a chance to sift through
relevant records and testimony, and there is no reason to believe that partisan
considerations will predominate over sober judgment..
It would be disturbing indeed if senators followed the party line in making a choice to seat either Ford (who has already taken the oath) or Roland or to void the election outright, a circumstance which would prompt a new election. Frankly, with a city council seat and possibly a county commission seat about to be vacated, and with several special elections already behind us this year, most voters in Shelby County would probably just as soon pass on that prospect.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission owes it to itself and to us to make sure its voting rolls are correct and up to date. Thats a logical first step toward getting things straight.