Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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Nothing to forgive

ROSA Parks does not need to be pardoned for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man in 1955 in Montgomery, Ala. Mrs. Parks did nothing wrong and needs no forgiveness.

The Alabama legislature, however, wants to issue a pardon to the civil rights pioneer. For what, being on the right side of history?

Legislation to pardon Mrs. Parks and others who ignored segregation-era laws is moving rapidly through the process. The southern state's lawmakers need to exercise a little common sense and abandon such a notion.

When then-President Gerald Ford was asked in the 1970s about pardoning Richard Nixon, he cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the acceptance of a pardon was tantamount to an admission of guilt. Mr. Nixon, with plenty to feel guilty about, got his pardon.

Mrs. Parks, who died last fall at age 92 in Detroit, is hardly in the same category. Her legacy doesn't need this superfluous bit of legislation, which seems to be advancing toward passage simply to salve the guilt felt by others.

The idea emerged in December during celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Mrs. Parks' arrest and the start of the Montgomery bus boycott. The sponsor of the bill, Alabama state Sen. Thad McClammy, a black Democrat from Montgomery, insists he is not trying to rewrite history. He said the pardons for anyone who broke segregation laws in that shameful era would explain that Jim Crow laws were wrong.

However, those who fought and died for civil rights need no latter-day politician's absolution.

There are intense feelings on both sides of the issue.

Charles Steele, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, backs the legislation. Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright and the Rev. Joseph Rembert of St. Paul A.M.E. Church, which Mrs. Parks attended, are uncomfortable with the idea of the pardon.

So are we. If Mr. McClammy and his Alabama colleagues are in a pardoning mood, they should grant forgiveness to the segregationists who arrested Rosa Parks on that December day in 1955, when her courage changed America forever.

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