We have told ourselves the story that somehow benevolent white folks acquiesced (and perhaps even saw the error of our ways) and, after a court case, “let” Mrs. Parks and all black folks sit wherever they wanted to on a bus. And, golly, looking back perhaps we were a little stringent in fussing about who sat where on a bus—but that’s all behind us now. Goodness—it sure would be nice if people would just stop talking about race!
The problem with this narrative is that it isn’t true. We in America haven’t dealt with the complicated history of what happened on Dec. 1, 1955 — or what happened before, or after. Many Americans have heard the name “Rosa Parks,” and they may have heard something about a bus. But they don’t know the history. As we look at the profound unrest and distrust in our nation, it is important to know the history.