I’ve been wanting to write this for a while but this semester has been far busier than I thought it would be.
One of the first sets of readings I had my Urban Politics class wrestle with was a set of chapters from the book Small Town in Mass Society. A sociological study of Springdale, New York. A few of the things that distinguish rural spaces from urban ones:
- An exaggerated focus on tradition. Remember that the Jena incident was precipitated by a tree.
- The characterization of people within the area as “plain folk” often against what we’d humorously call “city-slickers.”
- The belief in independence even in the face of significant DEPENDENCE.
- The use of consensus and expertise in political decisions.
(Actually there are an interesting set of comparisons to make between rural spaces and black political ones.)
I’d also add that rural spaces are not as “rational” as urban ones are, not as focused on bureaucratic means of keeping and preserving order. Businesses operate when they operate. Judges see cases when they see cases rather than on a tight schedule. Rules can be interpreted or uninterpreted with no system of checks and balances. The combination of all these factors make the type of racism found in rural spaces very unique. People think about both the Shaquanda Cotton and Jena 6 cases as being throwbacks. I’d think of them more as incidents of “red county racism”. They are only throwbacks in as much as the types of racism that we associate most with the Deep South themselves were often a product of rural space.
Similarly just as many of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement were made possible by the increased urbanity of black people, the types of cell-based organizing that we witnessed in both cases represents an urban response, at least in part.