Last Night Tim Kaine Played Bluegrass

Oh hold on to your hats Tim Kaine has emboldened me to let loose a rant…

Dear fellow white* Clinton/Kaine voters,

I’ve voted straight Dem since I turned 18 in ‘92, but I never felt truly at home in my party until last night when Tim Kaine played my people’s music in my people’s place. You can’t pander bluegrass. So since we’re family, can we have some real talk?

I need to tell you, as a proud white Southerner who loves BBQ, Bluegrass, and Black folks, and who also went to a very liberal liberal arts college and spent 20 years living in Brooklyn: the Intolerance of the Left is real, and it has got to stop. I love y’all, you are my people, but the folks making ‘shine and scaring off revenuers in the mountains are my people too, and y’all have not done right by us.

Innumerable times, white people who would never think of uttering a racial slur have thought it OK to make jokes about ignorant incestuous Southerners in front of me. Many of my college chums assumed that Southerners cornered the market on racism without ever looking into things like sundown towns, redlining, or the ways that the economy of New York depended on the slave trade, let alone the fact that being polite to their underpaid PoC housekeeper and their tokenized PoC peers at prep school does not constitute anti-racism. Quit taking cheap shots at my family.

Many of y’all have no idea how much corruption and dirty dealing there was on the part of Yankee carpet-baggers during the Reconstruction era: you just think it’s hi-larious that we’re so “stuck in the past” that we still use that term. But y’all don’t even know what the past IS, because you are so quick to judge any attempt to flesh out the picture around Southern history as “making excuses for slavery.” There is no excuse for slavery. Period. Nor was there when Northerners used the labor of enslaved people, and the fact that Northerners stopped the practice sooner is a product of economics as much as morality. When we say that most white Southerners didn’t live on a plantation, just consider the possibility that we might be trying to resist the false narrative you’ve placed on us rather than instantly assuming we’re doing revisionist history and blame-shifting. Which often happens, TBQH, but not always. Make sure your mask is inflated before you come round to fool with mine. Educate yourself before you start lecturing about ignorance.

If you are a white person, and you are not yet having real, in-depth, deeply uncomfortable conversations amongst your white friends on the topics of your own racial conditioning and our entire country’s systemic racism, you are running very late and you need to pick up the pace. Hashtags and checkbooks won’t cut it. Racism is not a fringe issue, it is not a false flag cooked up by “the media” and “Soros-funded special interest groups,” it has absolutely nothing to do with guilt for the past, and it never, ever goes away if we just ignore it. Get on board. Tim Kaine knows you’re scared. He gets scared too. We all do. But we’re in this thing together. Speak up.

OTOH, if you are one of those white folks who likes to go around yelling “check your privilege” at everybody, heads-up on the fact that you are being a terrible “ally.” Shaming is not a good strategy for achieving lasting change, and frankly just not a good look on most white folks. Listen better when a fellow white person says something problematic. Ask better questions. Resist perfectionism. Not everybody woke up this morning as “woke” as you think you are. Make sure you are doing your own soul-searching before you start trying out your new “micro-aggression” and “white fragility” vocab and LOLing about what “economic anxiety” really means. Learn the difference between being placating and being affirming of your fellow human being’s inherent value. Call people into heartfelt, honest, incredibly difficult conversations instead of simply “calling them out.” And, minor point, but enough with the freaking invisible knapsack. Get better metaphors. Resist jargon. Be more authentic and less obnoxious.

Listen. Systemic racism is real and will not magically disappear when we fix income inequality, and it actually does NOT “all come down to class,” but also, don’t equate being low on cash but still skin-privileged with inter-generational poverty in Appalachia. The doubling-down on bigotry and xenophobia by Trump supporters is abominable, but please understand that a lot of Trumpery is rooted not solely in the personal prejudice of “those people,” but is also a reaction to the unexamined prejudices of #NotAllYankees and other, yes, “elites” who have unconsciously re-broadcast the message that they are better than other people, and that same record has been playing for a couple hundred years now and is pretty damn tired. This mistrust of “the media” and “the elites” didn’t appear out of thin air overnight. Start caring even half as much about coal miners as you do about climate change. Take your eyes off the dumpster fire long enough to notice that Louisiana is drowning right now. Be more neighborly.

Let me be clear. Correlation =/= causation, and I’m not blaming anybody but Trump for Trump. But please, friends, let’s keep our side of the street clean when it comes to ignorance, hypocrisy, and intolerance within our communities. Nobody’s perfect, but we can do better.

I’m With Her. I’m with you. I love you. You’re beautiful. Now change.

In kinship,

Shannon

*Addressing this to white folks because “the color of the race problem is white,” not ‘cause I only see in b/w. Thank you to all people in all our marginalized communities for doing whatever you need to do to be safe and to define and enact your own liberation. I’ll try to show up when invited to carry water and follow your lead. I’ll try to have a seat, STFU, and listen while you are speaking. I’ll make a ton of mistakes, but I’ll keep at it because I understand at a soul level that my own liberation is inextricably tied up with yours. Thanks in advance for winning this election and saving America from crazy lazy white people. Again.