Hall of Mirrors breaks down the presentist and confirmation biases of the life and trial of Ruby McCollum in 3 poignant chapters that are structured in an academic, journalistic fashion and are designed to elucidate the innocence of the protagonist — not from the crime itself, but from actual moral wrong-doing. Presenting the facts objectively, Arthur Ellis Jr., the most renowned Ruby researcher of his time, returns a decade after he compiled the definitive transcription of McCollum’s courtroom case to give his own interesting account of revisionism through a retrospective analysis that seeks to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about Ruby McCollum.
Unable to sum up the morally muddled events, the author evokes existentialism, saying, “ an inquisitive young mind will take up the challenge and write a dissertation on it,” as if he is too old to conclude a case that he grew up with; despite this implication of personal incompetence and conclusive shortcoming, the author shines through the shortsightedness of fellow commentators to demonstrate the fact that Ruby, by choosing her own destiny, regardless of what the legality of the setting might have been back then, had become the Rosa Parks of her time.
“McCollum also created her own values to bring meaning to her own life through a steadfast commitment to define herself according to her own terms, regardless of the race, class and gender issues that she faced in the Jim Crow South.”
These actions lead us to think she was actively trying to transcend her life and times by acting “authentically,” even if that entailed murder. The recollection that Ruby was “caught between two guns” describes danger for her as something inevitable. In confronting the discrepancies from documents and documentaries, Ellis Jr. describes Ruby as a woman that was not simply at the wrong place and time, but one that chose two of the wrong men. More importantly, however, she is characterized as a woman with pride that chose her predicament and would not back down or conform to solitude and silence like her contemporary women, or those that preceded her, had done.
An important theme in recounting evidence for Ellis Jr. is to not shortchange real judicial and social progress we’ve made since the times of Jim Crow, and to examine very closely the judicial trappings of the time to not sway opinions from the modern day legislation, lest risk an entanglement with fact and fiction; in staying true to reality, Ellis Jr. provides us with real liberty by setting Ruby free and telling her truth.
In telling that truth, Elis contends that Ruby’s decision to murder her paramour was, in fact, her own — one separate from the many pressures and competing urges she, and all of us, face on a daily basis — and that regardless of the will to choose it was a “reasoned choice,” a death sentence for her abusive lover rather than an act of pure self-preservation. Ruby McCollum took it upon herself to act as her own agent and to reclaim what was left of her tarnished self-image and physical life at the cost of another’s. Ellis Jr. makes it clear that he fully grasps the details of the case, but he implies that he does not fully understand if she if guilty outside of a textbook, and instead leaves the reader by the appendix to define Mrs. McCollum’s actions outside of the discrepancies that he works diligently to debunk.
Through testimonies from contemporary friends and foes of the trial that support Ruby’s case and her autonomy when committing a homicide, Elis does well to remain as loyal and objective to the image of Mrs. McCollum and her criminal circumstances as possible. Fittingly, Hall of Mirrors is an aptly named monograph of a woman’s civil rights struggle that is complete with flashbacks paralleling forward to the norms of modernity and current jurisdictional tendencies that, coupled with an excellent understanding of real morality that offers a third way of looking at right and wrong — beyond black and white law — by promoting the tenets of Existentialist burden and the reliance of identity to foster the correct choice of acting authentically in a bind, it shows us that actions do really speak louder than words.
Pages: 206 | ISBN: 0982094086