Today, I’m going to leave finance again to talk about HONESTY, one of the QUALITIES OF SUCCESS in relation to the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. While today’s post isn’t directly related to Personal Finance, the Qualities of Success are directly tied in with Personal Finance, and as such are deserving of coverage regardless of the context in which they appear.
I believe that putting the Qualities of Success in an historical context allows for parents and teachers to be able to have more complete discussions with young people about themes that are current and yet still timeless. One of the goals of F4Y is to foster these better discussions so that young people can benefit, not only in Personal Finance, but in all aspects of life.
Because this post is a little more “important” than other posts, I’m not including the standard music video or pictures of animals striking curious poses (sorry, couldn’t resist the Price reference) that I usually include. If that makes you decide not to read this week, I understand.
Do you know who this person is? Well, if you’ve looked at Google today or a calendar with historic dates, you would recognize Rosa Parks. Mrs. Parks was huge in the Civil Rights movement of the United States in the middle of the last century.
What you know about her is probably that she was on a bus, it was raining, and she was too tired after working all day to give up her seat to a white person. That’s the way I learned it. I felt sorry for the poor woman.
Her “accidental” breaking of the law was emblematic of an unfair system that treated one group of people as less than another group of people based on nothing more than the color of their skin. It was shameful, and even though I have no relation to anybody involved in the whole incident, I was ashamed for all of the white people involved. Then I learned the real truth.
Do you recognize this person? Let me give you some hints:
- She is famous because of actions she took on a Montgomery, AL bus.
- In 1955, she was riding a bus, sitting in the section that was reserved for blacks.
- When asked (ordered), she refused to give up her seat for white people who had boarded the bus after her, leading to her arrest.
Any guesses? Well, if you guessed Rosa Parks, you would be…, INCORRECT! Although there are many similarities, this is Claudette Colvin. She was the first black rider to challenge the Montgomery Bus system and the segregationist policies. Few people heard of her until a book came out in 2009.
Some things you will learn about this tragic hiccup in history:
- Ms. Colvin, a minor, was threatened with being taken to an adult jail for the “crime” she was accused of. This meant that she would be subject to the punishment that was normally reserved for grown-ups instead of the (relatively) easy sentence of manual labor in a school where she would have faced picking cotton.
- She was advised and helped by Mrs. Parks who was not simply a tired, working woman, but in fact worked as secretary for the local chapter of the NAACP.
- Ms. Colvin’s case was to be a test for the constitutionality of the segregation policy prevalent in Alabama and many other places at the time.
- It was later decided that because she came from a poor family, lived in a poor part of town, was young, and finally became pregnant by a much older man, that she would not become the face of the Civil Rights movement in Alabama
Let me say this again. Because she was poor. Because she lived in a poor part of town. Because she was the victim of statutory rape, and got pregnant, she was ushered out-of-the-way to make way for what was a much more acceptable and activist Mrs. Parks.
Again, I’m not saying anything against Rosa Parks. I’m glad that due to the actions of Ms. Colvin and others after (and yet still before Rosa Parks), the policy of racial segregation has been repeatedly challenged and beaten. My point here is that this is yet another case where young people are taken advantage of and shuffled out-of-the-way by older people. My point here is that once again, an organic, authentic show of bravery by a young person was sanitized by the older establishment.
What has the movement lost by not allowing the story of Claudette Colvin to be told? What have young people lost by not knowing about another young hero?