Wineskins Archive

February 4, 2014

AfterGlow: The Lady Rosa Parks (May-Jun 1998)

Filed under: — @ 12:36 am and

by Phillip Morrison
May – June 1998

The usually affable high school principal was stern and hostile. With jaws clenched and veins pulsing, his eyes as piercing as laser beams, he demanded, “Did you call Rosa Parks a lady?

I was a fresh-out-of-school, small-town preacher, supplementing my income by doing substitute teaching in the high school. Though I couldn’t afford to lose the $5 a day the school board paid substitutes, my conscience demanded that I give a truthful answer. “Yes, in the Civics class I taught yesterday, I called Rosa Parks a lady.”

“Don’t you know she’s colored?” he asked with a reddening face.

“Of course; everybody who’s been following the news from Montgomery knows she’s colored. I called her a lady because that’s the way I was taught. And she is a lady – a heroic lady,” I concluded with a courage I didn’t really feel.

“Well, I can’t use you any more,” said the principal.

“I understand, and I’m sorry,” I said as we parted without a handshake.

In those days, “whites” and “coloreds” didn’t go to school together, didn’t use the same rest rooms, didn’t drink from the same water fountains, didn’t live in the same section of town. President Lincoln may have freed the slaves, but black Americans were not really emancipated.

Much sadder than this blight on our national character was the segregation practiced by our “Christian” churches and schools. Until graduate school, I never went to school with a black person a single day of my life. The Christian college I attended allowed no black students, but did allow black lectureship visitors to sit in roped-off sections. No wonder a black preacher years later rebuffed my friendship overtures by saying “The Christian college that graduated you with honors had me arrested when I tried to enroll.”

We both knew we couldn’t rewrite history or undo the past. he knew I was not personally responsible for the segregated campus, but I had no answer for his anger.

Segregation has been illegal for many years, but it has been immoral for much longer. As Christians, we must not be satisfied with compliance; we must actively seek brotherhood.Wineskins Magazine

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