Elizabeth Ellis

Recent Articles

The Good Wife Works: On memories and fear of loss

Wilt Chamberlain said it: “Important to you, irrelevant to others.” Experts agree, and advise you to get rid of your junk so as not to burden your family with your stuff. Americans are, after all, five percent of the world’s population consuming 30 percent of its resources, always replacing, upgrading, then throwing away the outmoded. Don’t throw it away, there is no away, reads a New York Times ad. But are we what we hang on to, hold in our hand, and look at in order to reminisce? In his essay Treasure Hunt, Umberto Eco (b. Continue Reading →

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The Good Wife Works – White and Blacks as allies and marriage partners

“The whites and their hatreds are the problem and not us.” — bell hooks, Bone Black

 

When the U.S. State Department’s former Secretary Dean Rusk’s daughter married a Black man, the Department received a few hundred nasty letters and calls. “An American Nazi Party captain in El Monte, Calif. declared: “I’d probably kill any of my children before I’d let them do such a thing.”

His reaction was echoed by a respectable businessman lunching at the Westmoreland Country Club in Glenview, Ill.: ‘If I were Rusk, I’d be inclined to shoot the guy.’ A grande dame at the Orlando Country Club in Florida gloated: ‘It will serve the old goat right to have ni**er grandbabies.’

Many others, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preferred to view the match as a personal affair. “Individuals marry,” said King, “not races.” (source: Time Magazine)

Here in St. Paul, the anniversary of the Loving vs. Continue Reading →

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The Good Wife Works – Women write of encounters with abusive men

 

 

 

 

 

“Many men in our culture never recover from childhood unkindnesses.” — bell hooks (born 09/25/52 as Gloria Watkins)

 

The books of Pearl Cleage and Rosie Perez’s Handbook for an Unpredictable Life (N.Y.: Crown Archetype, 2014) can be of interest to our readers. Cleage’s father, Reverend Albert Cleage (1911-2000,) was a Detroit minister who knew Malcolm X.

June Jordan (1936-2002) also remembers Malcolm X at Temple Number Seven Restaurant, headquarters of Malcolm X. She wrote, “He was devastatingly hilarious, at will, steadily to the point, and gallantly respectful without exception. He was so clean, his hair cut so short, his suit so plain: it was an austerity, a focus of purposive being.”

Cleage worked with Richard Pryor (1940-2005) as a writer on his films and with former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson (1938-2003) on his mayoral campaigns. In her most recent book Things I Should Have Told My Daughter (N.Y., Atria Books, 2014), Cleage (b. 12/07/48) feels her feminist stance as strong and as important as her civil activism. Continue Reading →

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The Good Wife Works – On belonging

“Racism poisons civic life and denies the worth of human beings because of their color,” Michael Eric Dyson wrote. We know that racism destroys a Black man by ignoring his gifts, overlooking his presence, and demeaning his manhood. Larry Holmes, pugilist, said it: “It’s hard being Black. You ever been Black? I was Black once — when I was poor.” John McWhorter echoes Holmes: “Poverty is a tragedy, not a lifestyle.”

The opportunity to advance — in order to escape poverty — is approached through job skills training and education when privilege did not come through the accident of birth, but there is more to discuss in Black culture than poverty. Continue Reading →

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The Good Wife Works – Pecking orders appear to be a universal human condition

An unidentified young Black male resident of Frogtown told photographer Wing Young Huie, “It’s not just Black people. I know some Asians, and they got the mentality to kill somebody. It’s like everybody got their own little ‘hood.”

Studying history or even modern world news portrays this ‘hood, my ‘hood, your ‘hood as the propensity of the universal man. Witness this: John Steinbeck wrote, “When [he] thought of Chinese beauty the iron predatory faces of the Manchus came to his mind, arrogant and unyielding faces of a people who had authority by unquestioned inheritance.”

Witness this: Writer Edward Hoagland knew New Yorkers who spoke of Palestinians as if they were not quite human, as are the Roma (gypsy.) “All men and all races are the children of God…one cannot exterminate Gypsies or Jews because one considered them of an inferior race.” (Source: Bob Shacochis.)

Witness this: A Cuban father’s daughter says his only jokes about Puerto Ricans were racist. A Lakota warns that, “Ojibway dreaded Anisinabe who drove the Sioux out.” (Source: Jim Harrison.)

Or an Istrian who said, “I dream about that day when nobody will hate me because of the food I prefer, my memory, or the language I speak.” (Source: Slavenka Drakulic.)

We are all the same? Continue Reading →

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The Good Wife Works – On race and culture

  “There are no ni**ers here. The people here, they still have their self-respect, their pride.” Richard Pryor (1940-2005) 

 

There is only the Human Race; there is no legitimacy to “race” based on adaptations of human hair and skin color to geography and climate. At a recent discussion in a Black student group at a local college the talk revolved around how our surface variations, even height and weight (too much? Not enough?) and dress, can and are unfairly used to judge our worth. Whether you’re a redhead in Iceland and hence the descendent of slaves, or a mestizo of mixed blood in South America, or the son of a U.S. soldier and a Vietnamese mother, or a Chechen despised by a Russian, or born to the lower caste in India, the distinguishing marks of your birth can be used against you. Continue Reading →

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The Good Wife Works – Wilder “conversation” urges us to see the poverty around us

In September 2013, a Wilder Foundation conversation,” Community Matters,” was held at the Wilder Center in St. Paul, starting with a bevy of statistics compiled by Wilder Research on the state of poverty in St. Paul, where 67,000 people live in poverty; of that, 25,000 are children. This computes to 24 percent of St. Paul’s population as opposed to 12 percent for the Twin Cities, or even Minnesota statewide. Continue Reading →

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The Good Wife Works – The implications of ‘hooking up’

“On the plantation where I grew up in the forties were some tough people and mean people and hardworking people; they could load more cane, plow a better row, control their women — most of them would brag about having more than one woman.” — Ernest J. Gaines, African American author (b. 1933)

 

“Hooking up” is casual sex as opposed to long-term serious attachment or love, saying “yes” with anyone for any reason as a free agent with no (or low-level) emotions. It is not monogamous nor committal. It is without attachment, temporary and not permanent. Think shacking up. Continue Reading →

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The Good Wife Works – On happiness and its enemies

 

“Doing what you like is freedom, liking what you do is happiness.” (from a Selby Ave. storefront)

 

We have the keys to happiness within us: our brain. Sex and exercise, learning and curiosity are the keys. Curiosity and novelty alleviate boredom. These stimulate the brain’s reward centers. Continue Reading →

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The Good Wife Works – The other woman

 

 

 

Tonya (not her real name) didn’t think of herself as a jealous woman. In fact, she remembered that while waiting in a long line and talking to the man next to her, when she wrote down on a slip of paper something the man said, a woman marched up to Tonya and demanded, “Did he give you his cell phone number?”

“No. Should he have?” Tonya felt sorry for her. Item (Associated Press, October 2011): A Wisconsin woman aimed a gun at her fiancé’s head after finding him with another woman in the basement of his home. When the gun didn’t fire, she stabbed him. Continue Reading →

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