Saturday, March 18, 2006

A View Of The Continuing Struggle

Have you ever heard the saying, "one step forward, two steps back?" As I was reading the paper yesterday, I found a vivid illustration of this in two small news briefs.

Let's go forward first. Alabama lawmakers are considering a mass pardon of people who were arrested for violating Alabama's segregation laws during the Montgomery bus boycotts. The idea had been floating around in the state's legislature for years, but had recently picked up steam after Rosa Parks's death last year. Can you believe her conviction is still on her record, even though the law she violated was unconstitutional and was overturned? If you want to help get this sorely overdue legislation passed, you may want to contact Alabama state representative Thad McClammy. (See below for update. 3/21/06)

Now it's time to be pulled back. Two paragraphs down from this story in the paper was this slap in the face. The FBI announced on Thursday that they will not be filing federal charges in case of Emmett Till, the 14-year old boy brutally murdered in Mississippi in the summer of 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman, because the five-year statute of limitations on federal civil rights violations had run out. They've passed the case on to Mississippi 4th Judicial District Attorney Joyce L. Chiles, who will decide if any state charges can be filed. If you want to help in the effort to get state charges filed in this case, contact Ms. Chiles at P.O. Box 253, Greenwood, MS, 38930. I'd also encourage people to write to your representative in Congress and the Senate to press for the government to right this wrong on the federal level.

That would be one step forward, don't you think? For more on the Emmett Till story, check out the website for the movie that helped get Emmett's case reopened, The Untold Story of Emmett Till. The movie is now available on DVD and the site tells his story in rich detail.

More to come later. Keep on pushin'.

3/21/06 UPDATE: There are some who view pardoning Rosa Parks and the others who were arrested during the Montgomery bus boycotts as wrong because it would give the wrong impression - like the people arrested were wrong to begin with. Another point of view, found in Clanton, Alabama's paper, "The Advertiser," argues that the effort is a "back-handed apology" and a case of too little, too late.

There's merit in both of these points. A pardon or total expungement of the charges from the records of everyone involved would have been better served during or shortly after the boycott. Taking this action now comes across as back-handed at best, and a cynical grab for votes based on public sympathy at worst - the ugliest form of striking while the iron is hot. Still, I'd like to think that something concrete should be done now instead of fretting over what the right thing to do would be to the point of paralysis.

Rosa and all the others who sacrificed their freedom (and in some cases their lives) deserve nothing less.

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