One windy evening on December 1st, 1955, a 42-year old seamstress, Rosa Parks, boarded a segregated bus in Montgomery, the capital city of Alabama, USA. She took a seat near the middle just behind the front “white” section well within the “colored” section.
As more passengers boarded the bus at the next stop, there was no more space in front for the privileged white. The bus driver who had a pistol in his holster commanded the black passengers in the middle to stand so that four white passengers could sit. Three others stood as expected but Rosa Parks refused. She knew the consequences. She was arrested; she lost her job.
However, that “singular act of disobedience”, as former US President Barack Obama once put it, changed the history of America forever especially the Civil Rights Movement. The black community rose in unison and there was a sustained collective response which made them to boycott public buses for as many as 381 days. It was America’s first large-scale demonstration against segregation.
As Barack Obama said in 2013 during a ceremony to unveil a statue in honour of Rosa Parks where past Presidents, members of Congress and military chiefs were honoured, “Rosa Parks tells us there’s always something we can do.” In other words, we can reject unjust conventions, damn the consequences and alter the course of history. We can be “unreasonable” and refuse to simply be sheep.