LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)—Monday marked an important date in the struggle for civil rights in this country; Rosa Parks would have been 100-years-old.
Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Ala., December 1955, as the law required.
Parks was arrested and her plight kicked off the civil rights movement.
She refused to give up her seat because she was tired.
"She says I was tired but I wasn't physically tired," Richard Breaux, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Ethnic and Racial Studies, UW-La Crosse, said. "I was tired of being treated like a second class citizen."
Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, a place a people thought of as the least comfortable half.
"That was very brave of her not giving up her seat because it was a white person," Valerie Grapes, MTU Passenger said.
"It was required for African American passengers, and a lot of people don't know this, to get on the front, pay their fare, get off the bus enter through the back door and then walk to the back of the bus," Breaux said. "Sometimes the driver would pull off, so they would pay but not have the benefit of the ride of the bus."
Demarius Washington moved to La Crosse from Mississippi. He sold his car and gets around on MTU. He gets on the front of the bus and can sit where ever he wants because of Parks' protest.
"I get motion sick so I try to pick in the middle and be by the door," Washington said,
While things have improved a lot, some people say we still have a ways to go.
"I believe there are a lot of people that are so stereotypical." Grapes said. "I don't really want to say racist. But there is racism out there."
"What exists now is not necessarily sanctioned but it's based on people's attitudes, people's presumptions about various neighbors of races. People aren't always as explicit anymore."
As the bus fills up around the noon hour, it's still pretty quiet. Washington wonders if people remember how it used to be on the bus.
"A lot of people take it for granted because they're not put in that position anymore and it's not as bad as it used to be but there's still intolerance," Washington said.
Breaux thinks Parks would be proud of the tolerance we've gained but say there's still some work to be done.
"A lot of that work is rooted in class discrimination and gender discrimination so the fights not over," Breaux said.
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