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A gesture intended to honor an icon of the civil rights movement failed miserably. After Houston Metro placed commemorative seat covers bearing Rosa Park’s name at the front of buses and trains, many on social media called it “performative.”
As part of a secret organizing strategy to force desegregation of public transportation in 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat, breathing new life into the burgeoning movement.
Yet, On February 4, 2022, Houston Metro pissed off a plethora of Black folks who would rather see strengthened voting rights and an end to racial gerrymandering.
Metro’s launch of the campaign coincided with Transit Equity Day. It also marked what would’ve been Rosa Parks’ 109th birthday.
The seats read ““Dedicated to the Memory of Rosa Parks,” according to KHOU. Meanwhile, many on Twitter called out the fact that Republicans in the state are actively combating the hard-fought political rights that historic leaders like Rosa Parks fought for.
The city of Houston: https://t.co/YTBJcJIeei
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) February 9, 2022
On behalf of black people… we didn't ask for this. -___- We were thinking criminal justice reform, some form of reparations, hell even a statue would have done better.
— Seal_shine (@shine_seal) February 4, 2022
Defund performative gestures.
We'll take better voting rights. https://t.co/XnpU7Zu73C
— FunnyMaine (@FunnyMaine) February 9, 2022
Black Texans want political rights recognized
Emerging as a battleground state in recent years, Republicans have worked to maintain control in an increasingly diverse state. Every ten years the nation conducts a census. Then state and congressional districts are redrawn. The idea is to ensure each district has equal representation as populations shift.
Yet, through a political tool referred to as partisan gerrymandering, the party in control can maintain political dominance over how the maps are redrawn.
Even though roughly 95% of population growth in Texas came from non-White communities, a report from the Brennan Center for Justice shows Republicans have drawn up maps that overwhelmingly favor White, conservative voters.
In December, the Biden Administration’s Justice Department sued Texas, alleging racial gerrymandering. The litigation accuses Texas of “refusing to recognize the State’s growing minority electorate.”
Still, some on social media defended Houston Metro’s attempt to honor Rosa Parks.
As a Houstonian, I don’t see anything wrong with the tribute. The fight is not with our city bus company, it’s with our state government.
— AmeeJ2U (@AmeeJack) February 10, 2022
Either way, it’s clear that Black Texans are hungry for more than symbolic recognition of their rights. As the litigation against redrawn districts continues, the upcoming 2022 midterm elections serve as a test of the gerrymandering’s effects on Black voting power.