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I find the recent commentaries by Paul Ruffins to be provocative and essential reading for our time. I am disturbed by his fascinationsome might say obsessionwith crime, gender, and race. Yet Ruffins provides a useful point of departure from which I challenge and grow in my own spiritually based frame of referencewhich combines pacifist, anti-racist, and African-centered alternative economic and gender-liberation perspectives.
For instance, Ruffins’ piece (“Finding Hell on Wheels,” 9/29) about “young brothers” who exercised a form of urban terrorism (not to be explained or condoned!) did not acknowledge that as a bicyclist he is likely identified with perpetrators of gentrification and liberalism (however well-intentioned). Also, the incident raises issues of how people come into and act out of a sense of masculinity, and these issues are more far-reaching and troubling than Ruffins’ crime-and-punishment analysis allows.
With respect to his more recent piece (“Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” 10/27) on domestic violence: Certainly, Ruffins pulls together valuable information, and his heart is in the right place. Yet he seems to locate most power in the police and in abused women’s interactions with law enforcement types. There is much that can and must happen in other arenasespecially in child and adult socializationto genuinely get at the root causes and solutions on domestic violence. All the protective orders, arrests, and punishment in the world will not solve the problem, and indeed are likely to exacerbate it.
I look forward to future writing by Ruffins, but I urge you to include some point/counterpoints among