Page 2


12th SIRE BOOKS WWWWWW IP WWWWWWWW IP 111 827 West 12th Street Austin, TX 2 blocks east of Lamar Monday-Saturday 10-6 512.499.8828 South were many of his former sponsors in Birmingham’s steel industry. As McWhorter closely documents, their attitudes slowly changed following the disastrous events of 1963. Though no public repudiation ever occurred, Birmingham’s business elite began to distance itself from its former henchmen. Boycotts and demonstrations deeply hurt retail merchants. Bull Connor’s antics were not exactly helpful in attracting outside capital and educated newcomers for the city’s rapidly growing medical research complex. Ultimately, executives decided that their city could not pay the price to maintain segregation. The decision of Birmingham’s elite was mirrored across the region: Segregation was bad for business. Carry Me Home succeeds better as history than memoir. McWhorter’s father, it turns out, did not really know the bombers and had nothing to do with their killings. McWhorter’s own conversion from a reflexive if not committed segregationist evidently occurred after the narrative of the book, so we don’t see how the events she discusses changed her own views. And what she does experience is hardly remarkable. Should we really be surprised that a well-off white girl was more disturbed by the cancellation of a school play than by the actual murder of four black girls? In the end, McWhorter’s story simply trickles out. But as history, the astounding level of detail and insightful reframing of the Birmingham movement make it a book well worth reading. By so vividly linking segregation’s rise and violent selfperpetuation to America’s modern industrial order, McWhorter sets up a rich opportunity to reexamine this celebrated chapter in the Southern civil rights movement. Ironically, this reframing also points up a failure. The struggle in Birmingham may have hastened the end of Jim Crow, but it left America’s economic system largely unchanged. The rulers of Birmingham could retreat to suburban enclaves, send their kids to private schools, and happily let Fred Shuttlesworth and any who cared to join him buy whatever ham burgers or movie tickets they could afford. The basic social orderblacks and poor whites on the bottom, rich whites on the topremained unchanged. Consider Montgomery, Alabama, where Rosa Parks’ refusal to sit at the back of the bus launched the grassroots phase of the civil rights movement. The daily humiliation of thousands of black bus riders is now unthinkablebecause the city’s oncegreat public transit system is down to a pathetic three bus routes. Getting to work if you don’t own a car is wellnigh impossible. No wonder that Martin Luther King, Jr. turned more and more to economk.matters after civil rights had been obtained. It was a garbage workers’ strike that brought him to Memphis in April of 1968, where he was assassinated. King and the four martyrs of Birmingham did not die for nothing, but the greatest aspirations of their movement have yet to be achieved. Benjamin Heber Johnson is writing a book about race relations in 20th. century Texas. Cleveland, continued from page 11 he announced that the treaty would be dead on arrival in the Senate if submitted by the president. I think this conflict indicates both why the U.S. is reluctant to sign and why it would be a good thing if we did. We’re reluctant to sign because we’re afraid that we might be dragged in for committing crimes against humanity or war crimes in a conflict such as this. On the other hand, if the court existed, then there would be a tribunal that would have jurisdiction to prosecute crimes against humanity. Its jurisdiction could be extended to include acts of terrorism and so forth. TO: I just read that Helms and his gang have introduced a bill against the Rome treaty, and that Bush is with them. SC; I believe there is a bill in the Senate to prohibit any U.S. funds from being used to participate in negotiations regarding the international criminal court, which means that Congress is trying to prevent the U.S. even from helping to shape the court to be a tribunal in which the U.S. might want to participate in the future. The other big, nebulous problem raised by this con flict for international law is that it doesn’t fit any of the traditional models for armed conflict. This was not a clear attack by a state. We have announced that we’re holding the Taliban responsible for the acts of al Qaeda, but in 1985 the Security Council rejected a similar claim trying to hold Tunisia responsible for acts of terrorists within its borders. The rules regarding state responsibility for the acts of their own nationals are being tested and perhaps modified in this conflict. The rules regarding self-defense are being loosened in this conflict, and it does pose real problems for the duty to protect civilians in armed conflict, because it’s not the red coats versus the green coats on a battlefield. TO intern Sandra Spicher is an MFA candidate at the Michener Center for Writers at UT-Austin. 12/7/01 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19 An,