Fifty five years ago today, a woman who had worked on her feet all day got arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. Rosa Parks’ act of defiance to an unjust law became the cornerstone of the civil rights movement that forever changed not only how American society looks, but how it operates.
The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s & 1960s began sweeping away centuries of discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, and even gender. In many ways, the movement continues on to this day, although much of the change has come from the courts rather than the legislatures.
For those of us born since 1955, it can be hard to imagine an America where you can be arrested & questioned without being told of your right to an attorney (Miranda), or where you can be prosecuted & forced to represent yourself because you can’t afford an attorney (Gideon). It can be hard to imagine an America where public school students can be suspended for protesting war by doing nothing more than wearing black arm bands (Tinker), or for not saying the Pledge of Allegiance (Barnette). It can be hard to imagine an America where states can outlaw birth control (Griswold) or where you can be arrested & jailed for marrying someone of a different race (Loving). But these things did happen, and it took rulings by the United States Supreme Court to make those changes happen.
However, since these decisions were handed down, there has been an on-going battle to have these decisions overruled entirely, or chipped away at bit by bit. For example, even though the United States Supreme Court held back in 1943 that schools cannot force students to salute the flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance, schools are still punishing students who do not. In 2010, a teacher had a student escorted to the office by the school’s police because she refused to stand & say the Pledge, a direct violation of not only the law, but the school’s own policies. In 2008, a school in North Dakota required students to stand for the pledge, but did not require them to say it. After three of his friends were suspended for not standing, Bishop Edens, 14, decided to protest this decision by doing the same. He also got suspended, but the students were quickly let back in school when told by lawyers that the policy “might” be unconstitutional.
For further reading, you can check out the links provided or better yet, do your own search on the internet.