Nine months before Rosa Parks was famously arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus, a woman named Claudette Colvin was arrested for the same protest.
Haven’t heard of her before?! I bet I know why. Claudette was a teen mom. She is also “she-ro”, a pioneer, a civil rights warrior and a very powerful babe.
The NAACP considered using Claudette’s case to challenge segregation laws, but they deemed her unfit.
Why? She was pregnant with no husband. Don’t forget: slut-shaming is no new thing.
But there was more to it than that. Her working class status and the dark shade of her black skin were used to distance her from the NAACP’s efforts. Claudette told The Guardian in 2000, “It would have been different if I hadn’t been pregnant, but if I had lived in a different place or been light-skinned, it would have made a difference, too. They would have come and seen my parents and found me someone to marry.” Her dark skin tone, her body and her working class status were used against her.
Today, we honor Claudette, her actions and the movement she inspired. If the NAACP had actively recognized the magnitude of her actions, maybe we would have a better understanding of just how complicated our country’s institutional racism is, and how very deeply it still runs in our modern society.
A movement is needed now as much as ever. Donald Trump’s presidency in the United States sheds light on the inequality facing African Americans and minorities in this country. Extremist language of hate is crippling to our communities, threatening to tear apart our families and disenfranchise our people. Our black brothers and sisters are murdered by our police. Racial bias is as ingrained as it is deadly in the North American political system.
But this inequality is nothing new. It founded our democracy; it built our streets and our homes.
We owe our country to our African American people, but we continue to silence, disenfranchise, and murder them instead.
There is no sparkly way to present our state of inequality. Instead, we must be angry, we must use our voice, and we must continue to fight alongside the missions of pioneers like Claudette and Rosa.