by Cathy Resmer
It's off-topic, but I wanted to take a moment to remember Rosa Parks, the civil rights pioneer who died yesterday in Detroit. I'm originally from the Detroit-metro area, and remember hearing about her now and again in the local news, apart from learning about her in the history books.
Coincidentally, Ann-Elise and I recently visited my parents in Eastpointe, and toured the bus on which Parks made her famous refusal. It's now on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. If you're curious how it ended up there, read this informative story from the Detroit Free Press. The museum has had the bus restored, and it looks great. I highly recommend going to see it if you're in the area (and if you can afford the pricey admission to the museum).
The museum actually lets you get on the bus, and invites you to sit on the same seats where Parks sat. It's impossible to get on board and not feel a sense of awe. I was actually reluctant to get on at first, but the tour guide inside encouraged me. Like most of the patrons of the museum, she was white. She explained how the bus had recently been restored, and gave some historical background for the incident involving Rosa Parks.
While I was there, another woman stepped into the bus. She was probably just over 50. White. She had on denim capri pants and flip flops. She listened to the tour guide's spiel, then shook her head, as if to say, tsk tsk. "What a world!" she said, as if to distance herself from the racism of the past (ever the reporter, I was taking notes). "Well," responded the guide, unwilling to let this woman off the hook, "it was only 50 years ago." It sounded a little like a reprimand to me.
"I know," responded the tourist abruptly, as if to end the discussion. But the tour guide continued. "That's the worst thing about it," she said. "This is recent history."