Without being rude, how exactly do you tell a fellow white person to stop comparing (a) themselves or (b) Sarah Palin to Rosa Parks?
I’ve seen it on two blogs that I generally like, and I am so… I hate to use the word “offended” because people mock it so much, as if being offended is just something that people make up when they want to cause a scene. And I think I’m more shocked and bewildered than angry or hurt, so offended is probably not the right choice even though it’s the first word that comes to mind.
Rosa Parks was not just some random woman who got on a bus one day and thought “Gee, you know, I’m tired, I think I’ll just refuse to move.” She was an activist and an African-American during a time when you could be beaten, your house bombed by terrorists, and you and your family murdered for standing up for your rights. After she acted as plaintiff in the test case against bus segregation by going to trial for her actions, she was fired and her husband had to quit his job. They had to move to a different city so she could find work. (You can learn more at the Rosa Parks entry on Wikipedia and her biography at the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute.)
Saying that a white American is the Rosa Parks of whatever cause is really disrespectful. It’s not synonymous with saying “she’s a fighter” or “she’s breaking down barriers.” It’s appropriation of a person and a context and a movement that you do not own and do not have permission to borrow. And I’m pretty sure it’s my anti-racist duty to point that out, even if the parties involved don’t care what I have to say, but I’m having a hard time figuring out how to explain it without throwing 5,000 words at it when 15 would be better.