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Identity News, Color Blues, & Ethnic Dues, Part One

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Like most North Americans, diversity and division have defined my days here, which now number well over 20,000. My parents met because my Irish, Scotch-Irish, French mother had an eye for Hispanic men, who were common as corn in South Texas, at a time when such liaisons brought ferocious reaction from parents and peers, and my father, with identical roots except German instead of French, wanted to fly fighters against North Koreans, mere g--ks in the parlance of West Virginia's hills and hollers, men and women whom his country had goaded into war.

That a deaf ear--the result of a hunting accident--would permit him no notoriety above that of a jet-engine mechanic altered the course of his training to Lackland AFB's vast swath of the hill country South of San Antonio. There, a 'blind date' brought my soon-to-be mom and dad into a heated conjunction, the result of which was me, albeit I came along in the mountainous countryside near Wheeling, instead of in the Lone Star State that conceived me.

And now, in my seventh decade hence, I sit in the higher massif of Western North Carolina, where I ponder so many years in the midst of what almost everyone around me calls race, a category as nonsensical as the notion that creatures of the same species have any relation but those of siblings, parents, offspring, various uncles or aunts, and cousins, which is what all of our sort on the planet are to each other if they do not stand in the first set of relations to any particular friend or acquaintance or stranger. Seven billion of us live on Earth: All God's Cousins, as I've entitled the first novel that I've been penning for myself.

I've composed multiple bits and pieces of scholarship, argumentation, articles, features, and research-based essays on these topics. To initiate this litany of what is essentially a series of vignettes and anecdotes from Spindoctor's life and times, an abstract that consists primarily of quotations from six such narratives follows here.

A very specific item on Daily Kos concerned the judicial murder of Troy Davis for a crime that he did not commit. Here is a useful contextualization of that point.

"Today, seven of those nine observers take back their testimony, admitting that they cannot state with any certainty who pulled the trigger and slayed an honest cop doing good work. At least four of the seven retractors currently insist that police threats--of various sanctions against them with criminal consequences--played a gigantic role in suborning perjury against an innocent man who will die in a few weeks at our collective hands. Mark Allen MacPhail's death is a fact; that someone gutlessly murdered him is a fact; Troy Anthony Davis' conviction for that soulless crime is a fact.

But we should make no mistake: copious other facts are now at hand, including and in addition to over three quarters of the eyewitnesses, who formed the sole basis for the State's pinning this act on Mr. Davis in the first place, having recanted their statements. Therefore, his actual guilt is at best one possibility among many others that can account for the cretinous and hateful destruction of Officer MacPhail's life."

That Troy Davis was Black and poor was the main surface basis for his death. However, reporters on the ground in Savannah such as the Spindoctor, as well as observant citizens there who lived and worked in the neighborhoods where the unfortunate Mr. Davis resided, knew that at least as pertinent was that the likely perpetrator of the fatal shooting of a moonlighting policeman was a Savannah Police Department informant whose work and identity were of more importance than either a working class cop's death or another working class bystander's falsely and perniciously becoming a scapegoat for the officer's murder.

Shortly after writing the futile DK plea, a more academic assessment of this sort of wrong followed, which focused mainly on the origins of what one might term an environmental justice movement, and on the documentation of wrongdoing and injustice on which any such social motion depends. The following lines offer something like a summary of that work.

"For many centuries, a darkly ironic conception of justice ruled in Dixie. 'Just Us' referred to the accurate formulation that legal remedies and the assistance of police and other governmental agents was not only decidedly not available for African Americans and other people of color--and to a large extent, poor people as well, but also that the relations with courts and the 'long arm of the law' generally took place as hostility, exploitation, and viciously corrupt practice. "

(Such issues extended to almost all aspects of environmental health and pollution and such other related matters). Martin Luther King called C. Vann Woodward's The Strange Career of Jim Crow 'the historical Bible of the civil rights movement,' yet I imagine that very few JustMeans readers other than "Jim" have heard of the volume, let alone having read it. The set of those who would connect this tome with energy and environment issues would contain at least one member, but probably only one member.

The Louisiana Environmental Justice Community Organizations Coalition (LEJCOC) stands for this sort of historical recognition that governs the social orientation in the present, recognizing also that 'to support and address the needs of environmental justice communities in Louisiana: including poverty, health, racism, crime, violence and other social-economic problems' requires the ability 'to bring poor and environmentally-challenged communities in Louisiana to the table with governmental entities and industry ".'"

Just as in relation to the barbaric sentence against Troy Davis, so too here, then, a combination of a broader brush and more nuance than a race-based assessment is a sine qua non of progress. Color may indeed be the key component, but it alone cannot lead either to understanding or to solutions that address these issues of environmental and other types of social wrongdoing or disparity.

A third missive, a bit wider in its outlook and yet also barely scratching this all-too-superficially plumbed surface, examined 'race' and mediation and social justice through a lens that used popular culture as its focal point. "From Barkhad Abdi to Krishna's Command About Duty" follows the fact that everything social touches on everything else of such a kind to look at questions of empire and psychology and color in relation to media and popular culture.

"The point of all of this, hopefully obvious, is that things are comprehensible if and only if an onlooker is willing to juxtapose apparently disparate pieces in such a fashion as to see the whole in relation to the parts and vice versa. No other set of methods will ever yield outcomes other than rudimentary portraits, which in themselves have nothing to do with action, power, or possibilities of transformation. "

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The original 'odd bird,' my stint as head of High School ROTC included my wearing MFS's black armband just before I turned down an appointment to West Point to go to Harvard. There, majoring in bridge, backgammon, and poker for my middle years as (more...)
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