DETROIT—Nearly 50 years ago, Rosa Parks made history by refusing to give her seat to a white man on a segregated public bus in Montgomery, AL. This week, following the passing of the woman known as "the mother of the civil-rights movement," Americans from every walk of life—regardless of race, gender, or creed—can finally put the subject of racial equality behind them, once and for all.
"During today's service, America not only bade farewell to a seamstress from Alabama," President Bush said at a special GOP fundraiser Monday evening, "America buried the idea of civil rights itself."
Bush added: "Today, that long-ago chapter of American history is slammed tightly shut, never to be reopened."
Alabama State Senator Hank Erwin, one of the hundreds of emotional guests at Bush's $5,000-a-plate dinner, proposed a toast, saying, "If I may paraphrase the words of Dr. Martin Luther King… 'I am free at last, free at last—thank God almighty, I'm free at last to stop thinking about civil rights.'"
It is often difficult for young people to understand the segregated United States of the mid-20th century, when black citizens often lived in poverty, had substandard housing, were given poor-quality public educations, and were disenfranchised as voters. With the passing of Parks and the fight for racial equality that she symbolized, such subjects are now relics of a bygone era.
In honor of Parks, Congress agreed Monday to table all civil-rights bills currently under deliberation and turn instead to the passing of non-binding resolutions. Additionally, judges across the country are throwing out hundreds of outdated civil-rights cases clogging federal and state courts.
Organizations both private and public are doing their part to usher out the painful era during which Americans fought for racial justice.
The Smithsonian's National Museum Of American History announced Tuesday that they have canceled a December exhibition that would have been titled "The Stories They Were Told: Selma Remembers." The History Channel is also helping the nation to move on, with a weeklong series devoted to the Apache helicopter.
With racial inequality no longer part of the national dialogue, the NAACP is being urged to focus on new problems, such as breast cancer.
Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund, said, "Our organization is considering the proposal, put forth by our colleagues in Washington, that we devote our abilities and resources to saving the majestic Burmese tiger."
Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) spoke fondly Wednesday of the civil-rights era of yore.
"On behalf of the African-American community, I thank God we have lived to see the day in which civil rights for all Americans are no longer a concern," Lott said. "America needs to understand that the legacy of the civil-rights movement belongs to them, and they don't need to do anything to further it, because it has already been achieved."