Rosa Parks: My Ideal of Courage

I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.

Rosa Parks (1913-2005)

One of the traits I admire most in women is courage; courage to act even though we are scared, courage to speak up even though we know there will be consequences, courage to believe in something that is not popular. When confronted with a situation that we feel is not right we have two choices; we can step back or step up.

One woman in particular I admire for stepping up is Rosa Parks, the woman who would not give up her seat on the bus during the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S.. She began the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was a catalyst in the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa Parks is an icon in every American textbook. In a sense, however, she is dehumanized by being referred to as this amazing heroine. Her status as a courageous woman in history seems a bit removed from our own realities. What about Rosa Parks as a person? No one is born more courageous than the next person. Why did Rosa Parks step up when so many before her did not?

Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 was divided by race. As part of this division black people were required to give up their seats and move to the back of the bus to allow white people to take the prime seats. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat; she was subsequently arrested. Such a simple action is woven with complexities.

Courage to Act Even Though We Are Scared

I am not Rosa Parks; I do not know exactly how she felt that day. I can, however, use my best attempt at empathy for her in that moment. It must have been scary to be in a hostile place where you know the people with power are not friendly faces.

Courage to Speak Up Even Though We Know There Will Be Consequences

Rosa Parks was not naïve. She did not think that by refusing to give up her seat that the people around her would say “Well that’s okay for today,” or “You’re right, you should be allowed to sit wherever you want.” Rosa Parks understood that the consequences of not moving to the back of the bus were serious.

Courage to Believe in Something Even Though It Is Not Popular

The idea that a black woman could just decide not to give up her seat was quite unpopular in Alabama in 1955. There was an overarching belief that giving up your seat was the right thing for black people to do.

For me, the act of courage is always followed by the clause “even though.” Courage means acting despite the consequences or the fear. Courage means deciding that there is something more important than the consequences or fear.

When have you made the decision to act or speak up even though you were afraid? Rosa Parks made that decision, and that is why we are still talking about her and sharing her story today. I can guarantee this- Rosa Parks is you and I. She was not born to greatness. She felt fear and she knew the consequences just like we do, but she decided to act. And that is courage.

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