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Move and Antagonizing Progressivism

Alice Walker on the firebombing of the Move commune in Philadelphia:

There we stood on a street corner in Paris, reading between the lines. It seems MOVE people never combed their hair, but wore it in long ‘ropes’ that people assumed were unclean. Since this is also how we wear out hair, we recognized this ‘weird’ style: dreadlocks. The style of the ancients: Ethiopians and Egyptians. Easily washed, quickly dried – a true wash-and-wear style for black people (and adventuresome whites) and painless, which is no doubt why MOVE people chose it for their children. And “for themselves: ‘Why suffer for cosmetic reasons?’ they must have asked. It appeared that the MOVE people were vegetarians and ate their food raw because they believed raw food healthier for the body and the soul. They believed in letting orange peels, banana peels, and other organic refuse ‘cycle’ back into the earth. Composting? They did not believe in embalming dead people or burying them in caskets. They thought they should be allowed to ‘cycle’ back to the earth, too. They loved dogs (their leader, John Africa, was called ‘The Dog Man’ because he cared for so many) and never killed animals of any kind, not even rats (which infuriated their neighbors), because they believed in the sanctity of all life.

Later, she wonders:

The people of MOVE are proof that poor people, not just upper- and middle-class whites and blacks who become hippies, are capable of intelligently perceiving and analyzing American life, politically and socially, and of devising and attempting to follow a different – and, to them, better – way. But because they are poor and black, this is not acceptable behavior to middle-class whites and blacks who think all poor black people should be happy with jherri curls, mindless (and lying) TV shows, and Kentucky fried chicken.

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