Does Anyone Remember Claudette Colvin?

That’s Colvin, not Calvin.

She was the fifteen-year old African-American girl who could have been Rosa Parks.

Other African-Americans had previously refused to give their seats to white passengers, says Hoose. “What was without precedent, though, is Colvin wanted to get a lawyer and she wanted to fight,” he says.

The lawyer she chose was Fred Gray, one of two African-American lawyers in Montgomery at the time. After speaking with Colvin, Gray says, he was prepared to file a civil rights lawsuit to contest segregation on buses in Montgomery. But after discussing Colvin’s incident with other local African-American community leaders, the community decided to wait, he says.

Colvin was just 15 and did not have civil rights training. Gray says the community was not quite prepared for Colvin’s situation.

“Later I had a child born out of wedlock; I became pregnant when I was 16,” Colvin says. “And I didn’t fit the image either, of, you know, someone they would want to show off.”

Nine months later, Rosa Parks did the exact same thing as Colvin. She was 42 years old, a professional and an officer in the NAACP. Hoose says Parks was the symbol that civil rights leaders were looking for.

The reason for bringing Colvin up is to calm the outrage over stories about the press’ coverage of Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk in Kentucky who was refusing to give marriage licenses to gay couples. Now it comes out that she herself in addition to being a Christian is a three-time divorcee and so not necessarily the poster woman for religious freedom among the sanctified defenders of hetero marriage. Molly Hemingway does note in her wonderfully contrarian way that Davis’ conversion to Christian came after her prior divorces. So she is a little upset with the press’ slut shaming. Others have other thoughts about the matter.

Still, why don’t religious conservatives fighting the culture wars worry about style points? Why don’t they pick victims that are more squeaky clean than others? Why not understand that hypocrisy comes with the territory of headlines? If civil rights attorneys had to pick the right person to be the emblem of their cause, why don’t Christians have to make the same calculation?

It’s not like this is a problem that only believers face.


6 thoughts on “Does Anyone Remember Claudette Colvin?

  1. Concerning public relations and viral point-making, I saw this a while back:

    The University of Virginia rape case profiled in Rolling Stone has fallen apart. In doing so, it joins a long and distinguished line of highly-publicized rape cases that have fallen apart. Studies often show that only 2 to 8 percent of rape allegations are false. Yet the rate for allegations that go ultra-viral in the media must be an order of magnitude higher than this. As the old saying goes, once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.

    In the same way, publicizing how strongly you believe an accusation that is obviously true signals nothing. Even hard-core anti-feminists would believe a rape accusation that was caught on video. A moral action that can be taken just as well by an outgroup member as an ingroup member is crappy signaling and crappy identity politics. If you want to signal how strongly you believe in taking victims seriously, you talk about it in the context of the least credible case you can find.

    But aside from that, there’s the PETA Principle (not to be confused with the Peter Principle). The more controversial something is, the more it gets talked about.

    I would like to be able to write about charity more often. Feminists would probably like to start supercharging the true rape accusations for a change. Protesters against police brutality would probably like to be able to focus on clear-cut cases that won’t make white people support the police even harder. Even PETA would probably prefer being the good guys for once. But the odds aren’t good. Not because the people involved are bad people who want to fail. Not even because the media-viewing public are stupid. Just because information ecologies are not your friend

    But is it clear what the point is that these Christians are trying to make?


  2. I hear Kim Davis is a democrat, so she doesn’t county anyway – right?

    “If civil rights attorneys had to pick the right person to be the emblem of their cause, why don’t Christians have to make the same calculation?”

    Are you saying the civil rights attys weren’t Christians?


  3. DGHart: Why don’t they pick victims that are more squeaky clean than others? If civil rights attorneys had to pick the right person to be the emblem of their cause, why don’t Christians have to make the same calculation?

    She’s the perfect representative, right? ….such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor 6:11 ..the accuser of our brethren accuses before our God day and night… they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony Rev 12:10-11

    in the news:
    Republican Senate President Robert Stivers says U.S. District Judge David Bunning needs to give the state legislature time to pass a law that would exempt Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis from having to issue marriage licenses. “The Supreme Court ruling has completely obliterated the definition of marriage and the process for obtaining a marriage license in Kentucky,” Stivers said in a news release. “The General Assembly will be compelled to amend many sections of Kentucky law, not just for the issuance of marriage licenses, to comply with the recent Supreme Court decision.”Stivers says nearly all of Kentucky’s laws governing marriage are invalid following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. For example, Kentucky’s state law requires a couple seeking a marriage license to apply for one in the county “in which the female resides” or at another county so long as the woman applies for it.”(The Supreme Court decision) clearly contemplates marriages that do not involve a female, as well as marriages that involve two females,” Stivers’ attorney wrote to the court. “It is unclear at this juncture what the proper venue for the issuance of a license for same sex marriages is after (the Supreme Court’s decision.)
    Wednesday, an attorney for Davis argued Bunning should not punish her for disobeying his order because she is unable to follow it. Jonathan Christman wrote that if Davis were to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple it would “irreparably and irreversibly violate her conscience.” Christman said Davis cannot separate herself from her religious beliefs even while she is an elected official.”It is not as if Kim Davis the individual stops existing while Kim Davis is performing her duties as Rowan County clerk,” Christman wrote.


  4. Rod may not remember Claudette, but he knows Kim Davis is no Rosa Parks:

    As several sources explained, within Religious Right circles many see Kim Davis as their own Rosa Parks. That is exactly wrong. The civil-rights movement’s leadership carefully chose Parks to spark the Montgomery bus boycott because she was a sympathetic figure, well respected in the city as a woman of integrity.

    By contrast, as a rural white religious conservative from the Deep South who symbolically stood in the courthouse door to prevent gay couples from exercising their constitutional rights, Davis is a disaster from the perspective of political messaging.

    What’s more, polling shows that public employees are viewed as the least sympathetic figures when it comes to religious liberty claims—and, incidentally, they also have the weakest legal claims to religious freedom in the workplace.


  5. Kim Davis is powerful enough to take down a papal nuncio:

    The meeting took place at the Vatican Embassy in Washington when the pontiff was visiting the nation’s capital. When news leaked a few days after Francis returned to Rome, it caused an uproar because it appeared that the pope was quietly giving support to an icon of the very culture wars that he had spent his visit preaching against.

    It also cast a shadow over what was otherwise an enormously successful and historic trip, Francis’ first-ever to the United States.

    It turned out, however, that the pope had been as blindsided as everyone else. He didn’t know who Davis was, church officials said, nor did he understand the implications of meeting her, and he was reportedly furious that his chief diplomatic representative in the United States had arranged the decidedly undiplomatic meeting.

    The Italian-born Vigano was immediately called back to Rome and called on the carpet. And it was considered providential that Vigano reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in January and could be eased out gracefully, a move that could happen very soon or not until after Easter.


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