Thursday, December 06, 2007


Every school child in America knows the story of Rosa Parks: she refused to give up her seat in the front of a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama and helped spark the civil rights revolution.

Last Saturday was the 52nd anniversary of that historic act of civil disobedience. In Eugene, Oregon, the Lane County Transportation District decided to honor Ms. Parks by reserving a seat for her on all of their buses. The reserved seat included a picture of Rosa Parks and a short biography of what she did all those years ago.

There is one catch, however. The reserved seat is... wait for it... AT THE BACK OF THE BUS.

I learned of this story when we paid the tribute a short mention on a weekend newscast, making brief mention of the seat's location. The video sent over from the original station that covered it clearly showed the reserved seat about two rows from the back of the bus. Amazingly, I have seen almost no reference to this detail online. One newspaper report said the reserved seats were in front. A student run paper delicately suggested that the seats were "right before the rear exit." (Not quite accurate, but closer than the pros got.)

But before I get too wrapped up in journalistic minutiae, allow me to ask the following question: what was the Lane County Transportation District thinking?

No doubt this was a well intentioned tribute, and the organizers only wanted to honor a woman who helped change history. And there are certain constraints surrounding reserving seats on buses. Most of the front seats are already reserved for the elderly and handicapped.

But this was a symbolic gesture on the part of bus company. Obviously, the late Ms. Parks wasn't going to show up and claim any of her reserved seats. So why couldn't they see the symbolism of reserving her a seat at the back of the bus?

Imagine if Rosa Parks actually did show up to take a bus ride that Saturday afternoon. What would the driver say to her? "Welcome, Ms. Parks! We've got a special seat all set for you... just keep heading towards the back."

I have a feeling she would have declined the offer, no matter how well intentioned.

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At 7:20 am, Blogger imitate said...

Holy civil blunder, Batman!

At 11:16 am, Blogger Ellen said...

Wow. This is hilarious. It always amazes me how things like this happen. And what amazes me even more... is that it isn't widely reported as the blunder that it is. Somebody should've called them on it.

At 12:42 pm, Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Wow. I mean...


I mean, I saw that coming, but had hoped my hunch was wrong.


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