Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Ah-ha, hush that fuss

When it's time for me to have children, and when it's time for my children to learn some history, the name Rosa Parks will, sadly, be synonymous with frivolous lawsuit rather than, and to the shame of, the civil rights movement. December 1, 2005, will mark the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks' civil defiance on that Montgomery, Alabama, bus.

By refusing to move from her seat at the middle of the bus—normally reserved for whites when the bus was at capacity—Ms. Parks ignites what would turn into a 381 day boycott of the Montgomery Buses, mostly patronized by African Americans. An unknown minister growing in popularity was to lead the boycott. That minister was Martin Luther King Jr., and the man had met his moment.

The year now is 1999, popular Rap tandem Outkast release a single entitled Rosa Parks that goes on to sell 10 million copies. In the intervening years from 1999 to 2004 Outkast is sued by Ms. Parks for using her name with out permission and slandering her legacy. That case is thrown out of court and then reinstated with another lawsuit claiming damages of $5 billion dollars from bookstores that sold the Outkast Album (Aquemini) with that infamous single.

Ms. Parks, 91, now lives in Detroit and suffers from dementia. Why she'd need $5 billion dollars is beyond, in my humble opinion, expression. It should be noted, however, that Ms. Parks has 13 nieces and nephews, and pending lawsuits against the Institute she founded, with damages owing totaling nearly half a million dollars.

Aside from Ms. Parks’ financial interest in the outcome of the $5 billion dollar case—and, no doubt, other interested people involved on her behalf—the merits of her claim my rest on a convincingly sound argument. The legal argument is this: Ms. Rosa Parks is a unique historical figure that, it should be conceded, holds a vaunted place in black history and the history of contemporary America. Therefore, insofar as her title and name represent the integrity of that legacy, her charities, and the causes she supports, anything that may be deleteriously slanderous to this title and name—a brand essentially—is by extension detrimental, even if negligible, to that legacy, her charities, and the causes she supports. If damage is proven, then remedy must be awarded.

$5 billion dollars on the other hand is an obscene amount of remedy to demand. Though, to be fair to Ms. Parks, I hardly think she's calling all the shots anymore. I'm not entirely sure why Outkast didn't settle or resolve the matter earlier: its Rosa Parks for goodness sake—no need to hide behind the first Amendment on this one. Regrettably, there are some pretty unsavory characters that claim to fight on Ms. Parks' behalf.

Via USAToday on Yahoo News

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