Letter to the Editor

Rosa Parks reference trivializes struggle

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

To the Editor:

I'm genuinely sorry Audrey Healey had her evening at a recent cheer competition marred by being asked to give up her seat (Banner Graphic letter, Aug.13).

Had it happened to me it likely would have spoiled my evening, too. The coordinators of the event might have done a better job communicating their seating plan, allocating space, etc., and I hope Ms. Healey expressed her concerns to them to improve everyone's experience in the future.

But I feel compelled to remind her that Rosa Parks is not the mere patron saint of people who are asked to give up their seat.

There is a world of difference between being asked to give up a seat because of an unjust, racist law and being asked to take a different seat at an event where participants are placed by school affiliation.

Appropriating the experience of someone engaged in civil disobedience against a violent, racist social order to express indignation over being pressured into changing seats both trivializes the deeply painful struggle against racism and saps the sympathy of readers inclined to support the message of an otherwise well-composed letter.

John Caraher

Associate professor of physics and astronomy

DePauw University