The things she fought for were the most fundamental and basic imaginable: she wanted to be able to go where she wanted and do as she pleased without threat of harm or imprisonment for no other reason than the color of her skin. Things are inarguably better for her race, and many other races, thanks largely to her courageous act, but recent events dispel any notion that "separate but equal" is a thing of the past. There are those, and as is always the case they get their ideas from the people at the top, who say racism is no longer a problem in America except for those who have a vested interest in pretending it is. But ask the people of New Orleans what they think; ask the respondents to a recent poll of African-Americans that placed President Bush's approval ratings at just over 2%. While the Jim Crow laws are history, blacks today are learning without the aid of a teacher the difference between de jure and de facto.
As long ago as 1991, Del tha Funkee Homosapien was raising an ironic eyebrow to the Parks legacy, wondering in "The Wacky World of Rapid Transit" why one gutsy woman's actions had, ultimately, responded in young black males choosing to be separate: "Niggas wanna ride the back/what kinda shit is that?" as a gangbanger screams at him: "What are you, Rosa Parks, motherfucker? Sit your ass back here!"
But it would be shameful if all we remembered now was what others have done to her birthright. Regardless of the events of her later life, regardless of the racial obsession that still seizes America and makes of King's dream a bad joke, it is impossible to overestimate the impact made on America by her impossibly brave act. At a time when blacks could very easily be jailed or beaten for failing to display the proper deference to a white man, when lynching was widely considered a misdemeanor if that, at a time when the status of women was little better than the status of African-Americans and the status of someone who was both lower still, she made an act of gentle defiance that could have cost her life but ultimately won her freedom.