As citizens born and bred in the United States, we often cannot appreciate our freedoms…unless they have been trampled upon in the most egregious of ways.
Some rights are considered fundamental and “Universal,” recognized by the United Nations which structurally has six arms –governing bodies (See reference #57 for a pictorial summary) These include:
Right to self-determination
Right to liberty
Right to due process of law
Right to freedom of movement
Right to freedom of thought
Right to freedom of religion
Right to freedom of expression
Right to peaceably assemble
Right to freedom of association
Civil Rights include: the rights that are granted to every citizen of the United States by the constitution and all of its amendments. Equal protection is guaranteed to every one regardless of race, color and creed.
In history and in current day, we can find a multitude of examples wherever we look to see egregious examples of human and civil rights violations! What good are laws if they are constantly broken by the general public? Even so, laws provide a framework and structure for the masses in which to conform. Without such order, lawmakers no doubt felt that without such rules, those without self-discipline would flourish and our very existence would be in a state of constant chaos!
The Matter of Laws With and Without Enforcement:
We all know that you can carefully craft and pass laws “until the cows come home.” Poorly crafted laws aside, if those well researched, written and implemented laws are not ENFORCED, they serve no real purpose except for the “feel good nature of legislators” who believe that they have done their jobs to pacify their constituencies.
Case in Point:
Rosa Parks [1913-2005] On December 1, 1955, at the age of 43, Rosa Parks, who was a trained activist for the NAACP and a civil rights activist. She was employed as a seamstress, and refused to vacate her seat for a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested and convicted of violating the laws of segregation.
The Jim Crow laws were in effect – “Jim Crow was not a person, yet affected the lives of millions of people. They were named after a popular 19th-century minstrel song that stereotyped African-Americans, “Jim Crow” came to personify the system of government-sanctioned racial oppression and segregation in the United States”.
They emerged in southern states after the U.S. Civil War. First enacted in the 1880s by lawmakers who were bitter about their loss to the North and the end of Slavery, the statutes separated the races in all walks of life. The resulting legislative barrier to equal rights created a system that favored whites and repressed blacks, an institutionalized form of inequality that grew in subsequent decades with help from the U.S. Supreme Court. The remnants of the Jim Crow system were finally abolished in the 1960s through the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Henry Ford Museum in which the bus is housed, explained further, “…Under Jim Crow customs and laws, it was relatively easy to separate the races in every area of life except transportation. Bus and train companies couldn’t afford separate cars and so blacks and whites had to occupy the same space.”
Thus, transportation was one the most volatile arenas for race relations in the South. Mrs. Parks remembers going to elementary school in Pine Level, Alabama, where buses took white kids to the new school but black kids had to walk to their school.
“I’d see the bus pass every day,” [Rosa] said. “But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world”
Montgomery’s Jim Crow customs were particularly harsh and gave bus drivers great latitude in making decisions on where people could sit. The law even gave bus drivers the authority to carry guns to enforce their edicts. Mrs. Parks’ attorney Fred Gray remembered, “Virtually every African-American person in Montgomery had some negative experience with the buses. But we had no choice. We had to use the buses for transportation.”
The Legacy of Rosa Parks
It wasn’t about being obstinate or that her feet hurt, her impetus blossomed into a very impactful, dangerous and courageous bus boycott for the world and Presidents to view. In my opinion, her act was the catalyst for real, effective civil rights. How often do you get the window of opportunity for change in this manner? President Kennedy, for all of his adoration, wanted the whole thing to just go away “as he was “up to his ears “in the Cuban Missile Crisis. As it turned out, the reluctant hero of circumstance, President Lyndon B. Johnson was forced to make history and received the credit for civil rights change.
Rosa and the “Back of the Bus”
Rosa may have been a seamstress, and considered a second class citizen, but she was an intelligent woman, a strategist, and saw her opportunity. But, what was it actually like for her and all of the blacks in the South that were so oppressed? No matter if it was the lunch counter, water cooler, separate restrooms or back of the bus. Disrespect and lack of human-civil rights is the same no matter how you package it!
“Back of the bus” and second class status is such a violation of who you are as a person, especially if there are clear laws and protections in place! Rosa had had enough and chose to rise up in favor of her race, her personhood, her humanity and for civil rights that were “just out off her reach” at the time. She was a pioneer.
An Analogy. It all began with an Assassination Attempt:
President Ronald Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt, and realized there was no system to care for crime victims. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week was created. In 1982, the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime produced a Final Report and 68 recommendations that provided the foundation for victims’ rights and services in years to come; Office for Victims of Crime within the U.S. Department of Justice established in 1983.
The focus was treating victims with dignity and respect, implement their rights under law, and educate the public about the impact of to improve our nation’s law enforcement, criminal justice and community response to offenses that, previously, were considered merely “family matters.”
“Back of the Bus Status” with Crime Victim Rights:
There is no Amendment to the U.S. Constitution yet… and just 33 of 50 states have crime victim rights at the state level. For an excellent tutorial, see the “Shattered Lives” broadcast featuring Will Marling, Executive Director of NOVA.
If I were to make a laundry list, of excuses and injustices I know of, it would stretch from here to California. However, the occurrences that portray the victim as “an afterthought” in favor of the States’ interest, who disparage the victim and their family members, particularly if they have not lived a “pristine life” [Who has?]; If communication and consideration are severely lacking such that it significantly impacts the case and family’s ability to cope and “go with the flow” of the cold, cruel judicial process; If there is a very prolonged resolution …or none at all; If there is no support or resources, such that the victim is “in a jurisdictional black hole” based on geography, lack of access or other circumstances beyond their control …or if the victim (if alive) or other family member is not equipped with the proper resilience necessary and choses a destructive path, these are the some of the most flagrant examples of “back of the bus mentality” that can do real damage.
A Judge’s “Back of the Bus” Attitude:
Those who are charged as officers of the court, who are compelled to treat others with fairness and objectivity and include all relevant information should hang their heads in shame reading the following account. Although this is a very early example, we know that even in 2014, often many judges do not go out of their way to enforce victim’s right to be heard.
Victim advocate Jo Kolanda describes a sentencing hearing she attended in the 1970’s:
“I went to court for the sentencing of a defendant who had been convicted of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle. With me were the mom and dad of the young woman he killed. The offender’s parents, friends, and pastor told the court what a wonderful guy he was. The victim’s parents asked the assistant district attorney to ask the judge if they could tell the court about their daughter. The judge said they could not because “It would be inflammatory.” Then he added that….. “He couldn’t understand why this simple traffic case was cluttering up his court calendar in the first place.”
[Reference: Janice Harris Lord, ACSW-LMSW/LPC For Mothers Against Drunk Driving Copyright © 2003 Mothers Against Drunk Driving, James Rowland, founder of the Victim Impact Statement; Anne Seymour of Justice Solutions in Washington, D.C et.al
The Crowning Achievement to “Get the Gore Family Outta the Back of the Bus”
April 24, 2013, THANK YOU ATTY MICHELLE S. CRUZ and DR. LAURIE ROTH!
Please do take time to listen to our amazing journey on The Roth Show! It is a day forever in my heart for good or for bad.
And finally, my attempt to “fill in the gaps and pay it forward” in a different and needed manner:
A Customized Victim Impact Statement Assistance Service ,one of the remaining avenues for crime victims to have a voice within the courts is through victim impact statements. Victim impact statements are usually read after trial as a way to get into the record the impact of the crime on the victims along with their friends and families.
- Can you trust someone else to present a generic picture for you?
- Can you trust that another relative or friend will say what is needed?
- Can you trust yourself to maintain control?
If the answer to any of these questions is doubtful, trust in me, a skilled writer and homicide survivor and advocate with over 30 years experience. If you have been given sufficient time to prepare a victim impact statement, perhaps I can help.
For more information, please contact me about Victim Impact Statement Assistance.
I wonder what Rosa Parks would have said about this service? Very good things, I hope!
We will not stand for “back of the bus” any longer!
Additional References: http://thelawdictionary.org/civil-rights/