Dying Young in America: Contrasts in Black and White

I am going to discuss Thanksgiving in this blog post. I  wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving here and will do so again. But unfortunately this is not a post about the joys, pleasures and warmth of the season.   Sadly it panders the personal to the political. Because I feel obligated to engage the issues of my time and place.

A Christmas turkey opened like the one ready for Thanksgiving here and now.

A Christmas turkey opened like the one ready for Thanksgiving here and now.

There is a lot being said about race in America right now.  I am adding to it a few ideas that may give shape to larger and smaller discussions of race in this blog. To do this I am sacrificing a chance to blog on Thanksgiving topics solely. I am discussing the death of a relative outside an obituary context. But I feel that I want to give some general ideas of what I have always thought about race before dealing with recent events out of context or not responding as some visit racial posts I have put up in the past.

The Civil Rights movement has shaped much of my life experience. I am fifty years old.

The Civil Rights movement has shaped much of my life experience. I am fifty years old.

I am out not doing as much as I should to get ready for Thanksgiving probably. That includes the fact that this post is not as thanksgiving oriented as it ought to be in an ideal world. I did find some holiday spirit yesterday as I made an effort to be in the right spirit and also to rush through the Thanksgiving shopping I am doing to help my mother this year.  I enjoyed the three years when I brought a turkey twice and a ham once. It made me feel less bleak in the holidays. I also enjoyed the company and the leftovers. It is always a challenge to blend dishes as I recall back from the years when I won turkeys for Thanksgiving and hams for Christmas at the big house from the Meridional football prediction contests and or combined with vendor canvassing contests by the same newspaper. I think of those years and the three years I bought the family smoke turkeys to add to Thanksgiving.. I will plan to attend on my own wheels and schedule but let Mom’s goods represent the kitchen I used in those years. I will try to pick up a few drinks. I will probably only be there not so very long and am trying to control how much I eat this season and have no separate leftovers to store so mostly a seat is what I will require. I of course look forward to the visit I also remember cleaning up after the big meals and know that is a gift to all of those who attend which goes past the limited time I will be there and so I am appreciative of that as well. I do remember a couple of pretty sad Thanksgiving Days spent by myself. Likewise some  shared with friends, relatives and near strangers in odd groupings.

A dinner over a holiday other than the principal dinner at the home my grandparents owned on 1812 Palmer Avenue in New Orleans -- my uncle Will and I

A dinner over a holiday other than the principal dinner at the home my grandparents owned on 1812 Palmer Avenue in New Orleans — my uncle Will and I with Dad on the right edge

Thanksgiving Dinner is of course a big deal and a special occasion. It is great of my sister to host this event this year. The details change from year to year but I am glad to see the family keeping things going and her role is appreciated. This season I intend to do less of everything than usual and see how things work day to day but I hope to enjoy what I am able to do. But the holidays are special and sacred. This year mine are crowded with distractions.

I spent Sunday and Monday marking the passing of Jerrel “Bubba” Hancock who died Thursday, November 20, 2014. . This was a very traumatic time and the loss of such a young life was stinging. I was off Facebook for a while and lost a few FB friends  from my list with whom I mostly communicated by Facebook and the lest of those who left included the widow of my Uncle Will and her children. I just discovered when my mother asked me to identify a picture of the person who had been killed in an oilfield explosion  that Jarel “Bubba” Hancock was killed offshore. Kayler and Jennifer’s father was Will’s friend and after he died Will and Brenda eventually  got married and reared them together. Kayler’s husband came to some of our family gatherings as a couple and then a family. When I got the new  I was more stunned than I probably had a right to be… Bubba was only 24 and aside from his widow Kayler Roy Hancock leaves two children Lane Ross Hancock and Lexi Linn Hancock. He was a really great presence to be around. My condolences were first extended to Brenda Summers, Bubba’s sister Shalacy Griffin by name and  to all of his family and friends who may be on my Facebook account.  Here I would extend my condolences to the whole family including his father, Clarence Hancock;  his mother, Sue Clark; grandfather, Jerrel Dean Hancock; three sisters, Shalacy Griffin and her husband Heath, Courtney Duhon and her husband Keith, and Brittney Lopez and her husband Joshua; nieces, Emile Duhon, Emma Pommier, Journey Lopez; nephews, Cade Touchet, Jett Lopez, Ryker Griffin; nephew/godchild, Jax Lopez; aunt, Joyce Clark Cuevas; mother-in-law, Brenda Summers; and sister-in-law, Jennifer Pommier and her husband Jeremy.  There is so much tragedy in the story. I did contact Brenda on Facebook and called and then went to meet the mourners at  Vincent’s funeral home in Abbeville which handled the arrangements. In a life taken offshore or in an oil and gas related accident or incident people here recognize that this is a dangerous industry which also supports our local economy. Much as with whalers in history’s whaling communities, seamen in ports and miners in mining communities we note the deaths of those who fall in this line of duty as having a communal element just a little removed from a military or first responder funeral. May Bubba rest in peace.  He was gathered to his kinfolk who include his grandmother, Wilda M. Clark; great grandmother, Ella Pontiff Suire; grandfather, John Clark; uncle, John Clark, Jr.; and father-in-law, William C. Summers, My uncle. The funeral services were held Monday, November 24, 2014 at a 10:00 a.m. with a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church   and   Reverend Bill Melancon officiated the services and there were  many mourners and some well sung hymns. I do not pretend to know what everyone was thinking or felt although I did here some people talking.

View of Bubba's funeral from near the church entrance looking at the altar.

View of Bubba’s funeral from near the church entrance looking at the altar.

He was laid to rest at St. Paul Cemetery after the Mass but I did not attend the actual burial.  No doubt there will be questions about any negligence that may have cost Bubba his life but this was not a time when such questions were foremost.  People gathered to honor his life, console his bereaved and  note his passing.

Funeral cortege arrives at church which will carry the remains out to burial a bit more than an hour later.

Funeral cortege arrives at church which will carry the remains out to burial a bit more than an hour later.

However, Monday night the news came out that a grand jury did not indict Darren Wilson the officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. This incident of the issuing of a no true bill caused or occasioned a violent response across the city and disruptive protests across the nation.  This is Thanksgiving week and I normally post about holidays near the holidays as you can see here, here and here. In addition, I also  devote myself to supporting the Holidays in a variety of ways.  But this year is different.  I am in the midst of some holiday preparations but they are a scaled down version of some years. I am I supposed somewhat distracted from the season by many concerns of many kinds. Happy Thanksgiving to all Americans regardless of race, ethnicity or circumstance.  I have had a bit of a bump in views and visits on this blog and I am pretty sure that such an increase had more to do with the events surrounding the Ferguson riots and the shooting of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson than it has had to do with the Holiday. Perhaps some people are looking for answers outside the political mainstream more than usual. The Holiday deserves a great deal of a post but this is not such a post. This is not even a heartwarming family post if one takes out the fact that it occurs when one might post about Thanksgiving. This is a post about America, family and community but not nearly enough about the kinds of shared feeling between colonists and aboriginal Americans which has a place on our calendar for shared and celebrated memories. The stuff about the country in this note is not about that Plymouth Thanksgiving but perhaps is related to another root of the Thanksgiving Day holiday. I have blogged about Acadian, Texan and other roots of Thanksgiving besides the Plymouth Holiday. I have also mentioned the Lincoln roots. Those seem most suitable today. So I am thinking about another of the many fathers of the Thanksgiving Holiday. To some degree it was proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln after the extremely bloody Battle of Gettysburg. Even if one believes that Gettysburg was a great and important moment of good (my own feelings are ambiguous but I am more of a Confederate sympathizer than a Lincoln fan — that much is sure) this was the darkest pattern to help make the Thanksgiving tradition. Even if you just count Yankee dead it was a bloodbath which would not have rated such a holiday under any other President we have had up to now. I don’t see the current somewhat Illinois man proclaiming such a holiday in such circumstances either. This holiday too will come after quite a bit of tumult although nothing compared to the scale of Gettysburg.

Gettysburg settled upon our country many parts of a new consensus . . .

Gettysburg settled upon our country many parts of a new consensus . . .

In this blog I have certainly addressed racial issues.  For many years I  sought to avoid addressing this so publicly and clinically as I now do quite regularly. There are many reasons for that one is that race is used to confuse issues as often as to clarify them.  There is a black man around here who is suing to see why the police shot his son and that man and his substantial body of supporters have behaved nothing like the mobs of radicals or would-be radicals and others around Ferguson and the shooting of Michael Brown. However, I do believe that we are in a racial crisis in America. I believe any number of very bad outcomes are more likely than those outcomes I would consider to good. The Ferguson riots are not isolated from a bigger picture in my view. Other instances of racial problems I have discussed can be found here, here and here. We must acknowledge those things that cause us anxiety and I am anxious about the state of racial politics in this society, the recent events associated with Michael Brown and Darren Wilson  only illustrate more alarming tensions and trends.  While it is mostly in writing I confront that anxiety here by stating what I believe to be the truth. Nonetheless, there is some long history of my life which has also been devoted to dealing with racial questions. This is a relatively risky and thankless thing to do in living acts or in writing in this blog or elsewhere but I undertake to do it because it is necessary for the other objectives of the blog. I am not defining and discussing race here in the context of every possible perspective, system of priorities or historical antecedent. I am primarily writing about race as it relates to the constitutional history of this country and the  transformation of America advocate which has occurred in my lifetime and the different transformation advocated  in this blog. That does not mean that I do not believe that the things I argue, advocate and suggest here are objectively true and valid.  It only means  that these positions and ideas would not be equally relevant to  all other circumstances and positions. I have decided to address issues of race race in my life and writing and have done so for a while.When I say that this is risky I mean that it is conceivable thatI will suffer some terrible outcome for publishing this. Such a thing is not at all impossible. But I feel the need to state my position as clearly as I can. I think that it is a serious matter. Besides Bubba’s tragic death I also think of the terrible incident involving Austin Rivault and his companions shot by Seth Fontenot. You can read more about this incident here. While this is a terrible situation nothing like the Ferguson, Missouri response is contemplated on any side of the issue.

Austin at a faith Camp reunion a few years before he was shot.

Austin at a faith Camp reunion a few years before he was shot.

Let me say that these ideas do not come out of the blue. They come out of  a tradition informed by American experience, Acadian experience, Louisiana experience, French experience, Greek and Hellenic experience and many other traditions that join to form the experience and tradition which I represent.  They are informed by a life time of travels and studies and dialogs with people of varied cultures and races around the world.  These ideas are also informed by reading and examination of any of a number of scientific surveys, treatises and postulated models for human development and behavior.  They are based on the long devotion to the study of Scripture and Church doctrine but not in the sense that I am postulating them as the authoritative Christian position. In fact, they are heavily controverted within all parts of the Christian Community. The people rioting in and with Ferguson also have a context. They see the Occupy Movement, the Arab Spring and popular culture from rap songs to movies like the Hunger Games and Insurgent in their minds. I share their awareness of tumult and  their sense of the need for change. Here then are  Twelve Principles of Racial Politics that should be understood to apply to all of my thoughts and assertions within this blog and within all of the political  models and programs I outline for application in the larger world: First Summers Racial Politics Principle:

  1. Race does exist but it is one of the more relatively fluid, complex and continuously self-transforming  categories and groupings that define humanity, the human community and the distinctions between people.
race is one part of understanding human diversity it is not the only part.

race is one part of understanding human diversity it is not the only part.

Second Summers Racial Politics Principle:

  1. As an existing quality or property of a person racial well-being was intended to be protected by the founding fathers as part of that intangible form of property that the Declaration describes as “the Pursuit of Happiness” which should not be understood solely in individual terms. The founders also intended their documents to apply in a different way to “their posterity” than to all of humanity without distinction. No understanding of America which does not embrace these realities is adequate fo charting the course of America.
We have a responsibility to understand the words we use to shape our live and society. This is a picture of the Declarators committee.

We have a responsibility to understand the words we use to shape our live and society. This is a picture of the Declarators committee.

Third Summers Racial Politics Principle:

  1. In the republican Union and in what I believe to be our proper destiny as a Federal American Empire of the United States all persons should start off on a path to hold the basic rights to vote, enter into contracts, hold property, bear arms and marry regardless of their race.
Liberty must evolve but not be abandoned.

Liberty must evolve but not be abandoned.

  1. Many of the ideas of human dignity coming from a spiritual perspective can be asserted and explained even to a materialist atheist. I believe materialist atheism is not such a great thing but we need to govern race in America and many things almost at this level because of the diverse ways in which our spiritual perspectives express more beautifully a basic truth in ways which are not as compatible as they become less basic. But all share in the holy heritage of humanity’s special place in God’s order in my theology.
My friends, brothers in Christ and fellow music makers in New Zealand.

My friends, brothers in Christ and fellow music makers in New Zealand.

Fifth Summers Racial Political Principle:

  1. The State, constitutional authority and Union may assert classifications of race when a strong interest compels them to do so and then they must limit such findings to individuals upon whom they are passing judgments. The basic body qualified to declare race is the family and they should do so. The fact that family has almost no legal existence or stature in America is an evil that should be remedied and does not vitiate this principle.
The Current Queen of England and Scotland's United Kingdom with Eisenhower

I don’t think any two constitutional changes are the same. The British Monarchy is not our target here.

Sixth Summers Racial Political Principle:

  1. Families should belong to weak and loose but not powerless and non-existent associations of ethnicity which have their own racial policies published and define race within their own context. Acadians, True Yankees, New York Jews, Louisiana Italian-Americans are examples that   come to mind. These should have some legal standing. This is also a legal principle that should apply elsewhere and usually does so that the ethnic quality is seen as part of  legal right.

Seventh Summers Racial Politics Principle:

  1. Whatever the races that make up the human race may be they all have some cluster  of advantages and disadvantages that generally obtain. None is inferior in every way nor superior in every way to the others. However, they can be discussed in terms of inferiority and superiority which are meaningful.

Eighth Summers Racial Politics Principle:

  1. It is fairly clear that there are two largely fair-skinned races which have shown more capacity for many thing which are  vital to survival of large populations in complex and varied circumstances  and to the progress of civilizations. One of these is the complex and somewhat hodgepodge collection of  white  and near white peoples developing in a complex history over Europe, the Mediterranean basin, and along tendrils into Westernmost and Central Asia. The other is the race more homogenous in every way but also a complex web of mostly near white and some pure white races centered in North Asia  and the great Chinese plains. Many other races are an admixture of these races and other races their racial position must be recognized as intermediate. Black Africans developed some highly successful groups but in general were low in population, free-exploration and  civilized arts. Slavery and their expansion into mixed race groups was a means of progress and stability that existed far outside the Triangular Atlantic trade.

Ninth Summers Racial Political Principle:

  1. It is the nature of  a true civilization to create a common and public thing in which the best are able to achieve greater rewards and to be recognized as superior but are also tied to the needs not only of a theoretical whole but to benefits for all sections of society. America should be a white supremacist society in which many principles as important and more important than racial distinction are upheld to assure opportunity and decent humane autonomy to all persons and groups which participate supportively in our civilization. Among the nonracial principles to be upheld are: Federalism, Subsidiarity, Conservation, Progress, General Welfare, Common Defense, Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind, Due Process of Law, Family autonomy and I am proposing Royalism. I will not  define these principles here.

Tenth Summers Racial Political Principle:

  1. We must honor America’s specific racial reality. In our case we ought to exhibit due respect for senior ethnic groups within races and do a good job of ordering such things. We also must  give official recognition to the Western over the Oriental in this land as a matter of history .   We must give special protection and recognition to the American Aboriginal peoples as having both rights that flow from who they are but also from seniority. Nonetheless “Western White” settlers are our predominant leadership race. We must recognize also the uniquely complex and multiply referenced status of Creoles of Color in three principal communities: Louisiana, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands we must allow them to help define published ways of integrating those mixed race African-Americans they wish to receive who wish to enter  those communities.

Eleventh Summers Racial Politics Principle:

  1. We must find ways for things to be made equal where that is appropriate, separate and near equal and stratified where appropriate. We must develop a racial consciousness and laws which are predictable, fair and reflect reality. Once this is established then some of the members of society have to be willing to kill and die for it or it will not endure.

While I did post this just before Thanksgiving Day and I have been preoccupied with politics, policy, chores and other matters — I did celebrate Thanksgiving Day properly with family and the grand dinner required.  I add that part of the post last and can say that I enjoyed it thoroughly if in some degree of moderation.

Thanksgiving Dinner 2014 -- a single backlit shot to serve for a whole set of images and memories...

Thanksgiving Dinner 2014 — a single backlit shot to serve for a whole set of images and memories…

 

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One response to “Dying Young in America: Contrasts in Black and White

  1. Pingback: Last Day of Early Voting | Franksummers3ba's Blog

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