The Stuart Case Explains It All

From the Apostle Paul to Angela Y. Davis, social analysts of every era have wrestled with the three categorical building blocks of human oppression -- class, race, and sex -- and with their infinite variety of shadings, interminglings, and interrelations. In our day, that intellectual wrestling match has too often come down to a chicken-or-the-egg debate about which oppression came first and is thusly the root of all evil. The only thing such debate has revealed is that the only appropriate answer to the chicken-or-egg question is to insist, loudly, that it is the wrong question. These days, correct opinion perceives the relationship among the three categories of oppression as dialectical, dynamic, symbiotic, anything but a relationship of cause and effect. The three oppressions clearly affect, and are affected by, each other and feed upon each other. Clearly they all have to be combated together, with varying degrees of emphasis and priority in different times and places.

Unfortunately this conceptual symbiosis, once arrived at, still won't fit in to a bumper sticker phrase, a sound bite, or a single evocative visual image. There are no made-for-TV stories, or myths, to communicate this woefully abstracted concept to the pre- and post-literate among us. And in this or any other era, an idea, or ideology, without slogans, images, or myths is one without politico-cultural legs.

BUT AT THE TURNING of the decade, the Stuart murder case provided America with an ongoing, multimedia, winter-term seminar in the interwoven nature of sex, race, and class in American life. As it enters the culture in the form of the inevitable best sellers, biopics, and docudramas, the Stuart case could provide us with the central story, or myth, that sums up the most important truths about the way our society works.

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