the twit

    1.17.2008

    noticed: problems back home

    part of my why-i-like-living-in-mississippi-and/or-jackson narrative, or my don't-forget-that-these-problems-are-also-part-of-a-national-dilemma lecture usually involves some reference to the fact that-- in terms of race/class geographies, urban/suburban relations, and unyielding/ungrounded faith in the next great urban renewal-- my erstwhile mississippi home, jackson, very much reminds me of the place i grew up in: cleveland, ohio. of course, when curious listeners ask me to elaborate i usually stumble on the specifics of this structural analysis-- but it's remained all too obvious as i've come to know both places more over the past three years. the broad stroke is this: the white-flight patterns of abandoning the city and building the suburbs (and all the issues that derive from this economic/demographic/cultural shift) was a national phenomenon that took place in major cities across america, galvanized by the post-wwii real estate boom in the 50s and 60s. this shift was postponed in mississippi until the early 70s, in part because the state outright ignored/avoided the "all deliberate speed" part of brown v. board, which was only re-explained as "right now, asshole" in the 1969 alexander v. holmes case. there's a famous-- though perhaps apocryphal-- anecdote about jackson prep forming in the basement of first baptist church on the night of the court decision; the point is, the rest of the country had a two-decade headstart on the re-segregation maneuvers that jackson went through (with all deliberate speed, i might add) during the 70s and 80s, resulting in the predominantly poor & black urban core, shell of a forgotten manufacturing/light industry economy, financial/higher-ed/medical/legal/governmental sectors depending on professionals commuting from predominantly white upper middle class suburbs-- where a cocktail of low population density (minimum lots + building code requirements) and low taxes (leveraged on segregation-inflated property value) provide the excellent civic services that are now the race-free reason for people justifying their move (e.g. we moved to ______ because we want our kids to receive a quality public education...). that being said, there's a fine line between madison, mississippi and westlake, ohio.

    some qualifiers on that: one of the reason that i plan on using my free ole miss classes (hooray for university employment) to study economics is so that i can fill in these broad strokes. however, it will nevertheless remain true that one of my go-to answers to the story circle question, "when was first time it became clear that race was the elephant in the room" will be: when i came back from my first year at amherst college-- a profoundly diverse place in many respects (race, class, region, nationality)-- and attended the graduation of my great, childhood friend, sean wilbur, at fairview park high school (fairview park was the suburb that i grew up in), i was struck with the sense that something was missing as i looked at the sea of white faces on the auditorium stage. it was, very simply, other people-- perhaps some in the sea of black/brown faces undoubtedly on an auditorium stage in the cleveland public school district around the same time. i guess it became at that point very viscerally odd that both seas laid claim to the cultural signifier "cleveland"-- but that same term meant such different, and at times contrasting things. now, this would all be fine and well if these terms were in a healthy sociolinguistic engagement (which is probably part of the democratizing possibility of a city-- and all the different, contrasting things it requires to be in the same place at the same time), but they weren't. the same, of course, with "jackson."

    here's to being a progressive, snooty, pseudo-intellectual limousine liberal:

    from, "A Suburb Looks Nervously At Its Urban Neighbor," in The New York Times, January 17, 2008:

    Mr. McDermott was taking a walk early New Year’s Eve when a group of young African-Americans attacked him from behind. They slashed his face, kicked him, and mashed his leg with a lead pipe, the police said. A neighbor banging on a window scared the teenagers away.

    [...]

    Scott Lee, the acting police chief of Shaker Heights, said the beating was a random crime of opportunity and was not gang-related.

    Ludlow is a neighborhood of tidy Tudor and colonial homes with small yards shaded by mature sycamore trees. Part of the neighborhood lies in the affluent suburb of Shaker Heights and the other part lies in Cleveland, the fourth-poorest city in the country, according to the Census Bureau. Children on both sides of the neighborhood attend Shaker Heights public schools. The only way to know which city you are in is to look for the street signs, which in Cleveland are blue and in Shaker Heights are white.

    Mr. McDermott was attacked on a quiet street one block south of Ludlow Elementary School, which in the 1950s and ’60s became the center of Shaker Heights’s successful integration effort.

    [...]

    What has surprised Ludlow residents most since the attack is the reaction of people around the region.

    [...]

    “So move,” Dick Feagler, a columnist for The Cleveland Plain Dealer, wrote after the attack. “But do it like we all have — like the whole three-county area has — don’t call it racism. Call it reality.”

    [...]

    “I wonder how much ‘tolerance’ the ‘progressive,’ snooty, pseudo-intellectual limousine liberal, socialists of Shaker Heights will show now that the thugs are in their neighborhood too,” a reader wrote on a Cleveland Plain Dealer blog.

    [...]

    “People in the Cleveland area resent us because we’re a repudiation of everything they believe,” said Brian Walker, 56, who was among the first African-Americans to attend Ludlow school. “We’re proof that white people and black people can live together.”

    [...]

    “You can’t run forever,” said Tom Chelimsky, co-president of the Ludlow Community Association. The beating occurred on Mr. Chelimsky’s front lawn. “We’re not na├»ve. We’re tough, and we’re going to stand together.”

    1.06.2008

    to understand the full extent of the constraints of the abyss

    about to relocate to oxford, ms: recalibrate/re-evaluate/re-imagine the work. it's all by inches at this point. lots of learning by mistakes; lots of mistakes

    ***

    in any case, i want to find a way to write more regularly in general, and in this space in particular. i have no idea who currently reads this space, or who would. regardless, the bottom line of the narrative seems to be: i went from the horrors of an environment so structured as to be dehumanizing to the madness of an environment so unstructured as to be paralyzing, and now i'm trying to locate center.

    ***

    in other news, one thing that i have been doing a lot of recently is reading - and if you're around me long enough it's hard not to notice that i can't read without highlighter in hand. i have an obsession with marking up texts that i read (magazines and newspapers included), especially with the basic act of noting passages that i would like to remember. this habit seems neither uncommon nor unreasonable, but my persistence in doing it borders on the obsessive. that being said, i've been trying to find a way to do something with all these phrases and paragraphs that stand out across my diverse readings - and i think this space is a reasonable one to experiment with. blogs seem to be a genre centered on commentary and reference - a leviathan concordance to culture & politics, supremely dynamic and inconsistent. here's to the bizarre sandbox that we've built for ourselves:

    from "where wonders await us," by tim flannery. in the new york review of books, volume liv, no. 20:
    To understand the full extent of the constraints that the abyss places on life, consider the black seadevil. It's a somber, grapefruit-sized globe of a fish - seemingly all fangs and gape - with a "fishing rod" affixed between its eyes whose luminescent bait jerks above the trap-like mouth. Clearly, food is a priority for this creature, for it can swallow a victim nearly as large as itself. But that is only half the story, for this discription pertains solely to the female: the male is a minnow-like being content to feed on specks in the sea - until, that is, he encounters his sexual partner.

    The first time that a male black seadevil meets his much larger mate, he bites her and never lets go. Over time, his veins and arteries grow together with hers, until he becomes a fetus-like dependent who receives from his mate's blood all the food, oxygen, and hormones he requires to exist. The cost of this utter dependence is a loss of function in all of his organs except his testicles, but even these, it seems, are stimulated to action solely at the pleasure of the engulfing female. When she has had her way with him, the male seadevil simply vanishes, having been completely absorbed and dissipated into the flesh of his paramour, leaving her free to seek another mate. Not even Dante imagined such a fate.