“Why you gotta make it about being white?”

If you have never read The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr., fix that today, please. I particularly recommend the audiobook edition. Karen Chilton knocks the narration performance all the way out of the park. Plus, there’s this one little detail white folks (like me) don’t like to admit: The book is written beyond our literacy level. Having The Prophets read to you by someone who knows how to say the words out loud will help you follow the story better. I’m just being honest.

Today the United States Supreme Court decided that, although States have no right to make their own decisions about concealed carry laws, and all people must be allowed to carry a gun openly, States absolutely have the right to make their own decisions about abortion laws, and no people must be guaranteed access to a safe and legal, life-saving medical procedure. In Thomas’s concurring opinion, he writes that the right to access contraception (which prevents abortions from being necessary), the right to have sex in the privacy of your own home without being arrested, and the right to same-gender marriage should also be reviewed by the Supreme Court to reconsider those “mistakes” as well.

I’m not sitting here with images of the Handmaid’s Tale going through my head today. Is it likely that we’ll soon be living in a Gilead society where women are property whose only value is to produce new babies for powerful men? The Supreme Court would have that become our reality if they can. But there’s something I notice about the Handmaid’s Tale memes going around that has me even more terrified: those women are all white. In that story, what has happened to the Black folks? The Indigenous folks? The women evangelical white men don’t want to be caught impregnating? Where have they been sent? There is a reason “Gilead” memes are full of white women only. One of the reasons is to keep white women afraid of a fictional future instead of fearing the repeating history of our non-fiction past.

The images running through my mind today are of a place far more real: The United States of America, 1822. People are saying reproductive rights were rolled back 50 years today, but I suspect they were in fact rolled back closer to 200 years.

Throughout the United States’ history, more often than not, raping people has been legal and common. Forcing them to produce children against their will has been legal and common. Demanding a human be born and not giving a damn about the child once it is alive has been legal and common.

“About 22 years of age; used to both house work and farming, and sold for not fault but for want of employ. She has a child about 9 months old, which will be at the purchaser’s option.”

Has your outrage about the overturn of Roe v. Wade drawn your attention away from the January 6 insurrection hearings yet? If Republicans can make us focus on “women’s rights” instead of addressing White Supremacy, they can lull us into a 1920 voting rights moment where white women believe they’ve won some kind of freedom without even noticing that the same freedom won’t be extended to Black women until 1964. If we stay focused on dismantling racism, we win liberty and justice for all.

For 400 years, Black women learned and practiced the art of bodily autonomy in shackles. They found ways to end pregnancies. They helped one another keep waking up to endure another day of monstrous labor under the whip-enforced command of white men who hated them almost as much as they desired them. Many died. White women did not speak up, clinging to what little power they were “given” by their husbands, and unwilling to part with it in favor of real liberation. No one needs a fictional story about Gilead to see where we’re headed. Our history tells the story just fine on its own.

Why do I have to make reproductive rights an issue about race? Because who gets the right to choose their own body’s fate has always been about race. From the forced sterilization of Native American women through the 1970’s, to the forced breeding of enslaved African Americans, to the difficulty of white women to find providers willing to sterilize them because they “might change their mind later”, race has always been a determinant in who gets the privilege to control their reproductive autonomy.

When choosing leaders, experience matters. This is why we need to elect as many people of color as we can in November. This is why we need the descendants of those enslaved people running our government now, to prevent us from going back there again. They know things in ways white people are only beginning to scratch the surface of recognizing. We have opportunities today, through them, to move the nation forward into a path of loving kindness.

My heart is heavy today, as I lament the truth that my own parents and grandparents care more about some exercising power over a theoretical clump of unviable fetal cells than they care about their own living, breathing, hurting, hated, crying, queer offspring. I want to offer you some words of encouragement. I want to tell you it gets better. But all I can really find the words for right now is: Please vote in November. We need you here with us.

And if you can, please volunteer with and donate to these campaigns:

Chris Jones

Monique Jones

Natalie James

Stacey Abrams

Marcus Flowers

“We’ve Invited the People of Color. Where Are They?”

I believe that transparency is fundamental to Democracy, and fundamental to healthy community building. I hope the organizations who’ve inspired this post will share this belief, as it forms the basis upon which I write the following in a spirit of goodwill and community healing:

Last night I attended my first-ever local Democrats meeting. I’d been asked by half a dozen people to show up and get involved.

“We need you,” they said. I’m allergic to being needed, after 5 years of living as a white man and developing a disastrous savior complex in my 20’s. Highly allergic. You don’t need me. You need to look within yourself and be honest about what you see.

“We lack organization since the old guard has phased out,” one told me. “That generation of Democrat didn’t listen, but they were organized. The newer folks care enough to listen, but we aren’t as organized.”

“Our Black caucus and Hispanic caucus have already peaced out,” a couple of them shared. “How can we be a Democratic group without a Black caucus and Hispanic caucus? They won’t even show up anymore! How can we live up to our values with just white people at the table?”

So I showed up. I listened. I learned. I ate lemon cake.

I noticed there was one visibly Native American person in the room, and everyone else was white. I was the only transgender person in the room; everyone else was cisgender. There was one Black woman on the zoom call, who also happens to be the only Black Justice of the Peace for the whole county; everyone else on zoom appeared to be white or had their cameras turned off.

I asked the leadership about this lack of diversity after the meeting concluded. The white woman in command began naming a list of BIPOC community organizers she knows, none of whom want to be involved with the county Democrats. I asked her why they don’t get involved (as if people she named hadn’t already told me themselves.)

“Well I’ve invited Irvin, but he doesn’t want to get involved until he sees us in Springdale doing the work in the community,” she answered. She looked resigned, like there was simply nothing more the Democrats could do to persuade the magical and illustrious Irvin Camacho to give a flying flip about the Democrats who want his communities’ votes so desperately for their many candidates.

“Great!” I said. I mean, really, this was wonderful news for the Democratic Party in Arkansas! Apparently Irvin’s still open to them earning his presence at their table. He hasn’t slammed the door in their face and told them to go masturbate with sandpaper. There is opportunity here! All the Democrats have to do is show up for grassroots community engagement and help out in the ways that are needed by the people they’re supposed to serve.

“So what are you doing to help get Alice Gachuzo elected to city council in Springdale right now?” I asked. I was on the edge of my seat, ready to hear about the door-knocking, the phone calling, the texting, the donation drives, the events these experienced, political-savvy people were helping Alice with for her campaign as a first-time candidate with a solid history of non-political leadership in the community.

“Oh, I know Alice!” the leader said excitedly.

“Yes, but what are you doing to help her get elected?” I asked again. “What are all the people who were in this room tonight doing to help her get elected?”

Another leader of the group spoke up. “City Council is a non-partisan race,” he said. “We don’t usually get involved in those.”

White Democrats, this is where the fork in the road requires us to choose between white colonization practices, or community, and walk the path we choose. What we “usually get involved in” and what we need to get involved in if we care to repair our communities are not the same path. Let me explain:

City Council may be a non-partisan race, but the impact of the first-ever Black woman being elected to office in Springdale, a predominantly non-white city run by wildly non-representative, white council members, is immeasurable. The impact of her representing the people of Springdale instead of the special interests of the political and financial elite, is immeasurable. Her potential impact on our communities as minoritized humans is immeasurable. I don’t even live in Springdale anymore, and I’m working to help Alice get elected because I know she will make the world a better place. That’s all the reason I need to show up and help.

The old ways of the Democratic Party were about playing by a two-party rule book of numbers and cunning out-maneuvering. The Democrats approached politics like a chess game with Republican opponents, instead of a life-or-death struggle that transcends party lines. That old style and approach gave rise to Hillary Clinton. The United States had already made very clear when we voted for Obama that we wanted Change. We wanted freedom and justice for all. We wanted hope. We wanted to stop playing old political games of oppression olympics, and start investing in our children, in our well-being, in our planet, and in our future. But then the Democratic Party in 2015, turning to its old, familiar, abusive patterns under the arrogant assumption that Donald Trump couldn’t possibly get elected, tried to force-feed us one of the most repugnant candidates it could: Hillary Clinton. The Democratic Party tried to make us accept as our leader a woman who talked about Black children as if “they must be brought to heel”, a woman who verbally eviscerated a 12 year old rape victim on the witness stand in Arkansas to advance her career as an attorney, a woman who deliberately aligned herself with the man responsible for “three strikes and you’re out” executive legislation — as well as the soaring stock prices of Corrections Corporations of America, a for-profit prison system continuing to this day to profit on the enslaved labor of primarily Black and brown bodied people. The national Democratic Party chose the white colonization practices path instead of the community path, and walked the path they chose, and got Donald Trump as a result.

When you tell God you want white colonization practices, God will give you what you ask for.
When you tell God you want anti-racism, God will give you what you ask for.
When you’re lukewarm, God will spit you out like Hillary Clinton’s hot sauce.

When Irvin tells the leader of the local Democrats he’ll show up for us when he sees us showing up for his communities, he’s offering us a way out of that predicament. The price his presence will cost us is a simple, sincere commitment to prioritizing the needs of the people, and doing what’s right, over the “usual” procedural vestiges of a crumbling Party.

That’s probably what the Black caucus’s presence will cost us. That’s probably what the Hispanic caucus’s presence will cost us. That’s what the privilege of enjoying Indigenous people at our decision-making tables will cost us. White Democrats like me must pay the price of humility and committed action to earn their presence at our table. Nothing is free.

This is like any other relationship, y’all. You can’t just offer a half-assed contribution to an unhealthy relationship and expect the best-ever partners to stick around for that relationship. You get what you give. People who know their worth will go where they are appreciated.

White Democrats have been showing up with pretty-worded apologies, and maybe occasionally a dozen roses, asking minoritized people for yet another chance to hold an abusive relationship together. Then when they get another chance, they crack open another cold one in front of the TV and sit down to relax like they’ve done a gazillion times before. Meanwhile, people of color have been asking Democrats to be full-fledged partners in their lives — doing our part for laundry day, doing the dishes, and treating the children like they’re our responsibility to show up for.

You don’t get people of color at a table built by white supremacy simply by asking them to show up. You get people of color at the table by scrapping the bullshit and building a new table they feel comfortable at. You get people of color at the table by acknowledging openly and honestly where the harms have been your own fault, and not repeating the mistakes again. They don’t want roses and chocolate. They want you to not sit back down in that old chair while asking them to bring you another beer — or get out and take your roses with you. I feel like they’ve been really clear about this.

By the end of the night, one of the leaders casually offered to me, “You can be in charge of our diversity!”

Oh, what I would have given last night to still feel even an ounce of the honor, the excitement, and the pleasure I used to feel when people invited me to be a First, Only, and Different participant in a game they had already fully constructed around and without me. But I see the F.O.D.s who’ve already told the Democratic Party what kind of community participation they need in order to feel invested in in this relationship, and I’ll be honest: I don’t want to be the next in line for the kind of relationship they got served.

In the interest of not picking on just one organization, it’s not like the Democrats are alone with the White Blinders problem. I saw a similar mess this week where a local, white-led LGB(T) organization responded to Black and Indigenous queer community organizers who’d identified a specific white supremacist threat against the Pride parade, by issuing a statement that they’d enlisted extra help from the police department, denied any known specific threats existed, and low-key urged queers of color not to arm themselves for self-defense and just trust the police to handle it — all while choosing not to engage any of the queers of color in meaningful conversation.

I didn’t have to know their organization is entirely white, to know their organization is entirely white. I didn’t have to know the only trans person on their board of directors left earlier this year, to conclude they are entirely cisgender-led. Their statements this week made the evidence abundantly clear. We can hear whose voices are missing from organizations’ decision-making tables as clearly as we can hear the voices missing from the San Francisco Gay Men’s Choir of 1992.

White supremacy is a retropsychopathology affecting us no less intensely than the unchecked retroviral epidemic of the 1980’s. What will it take for us to look within our hearts and choose the path of our loving, friendship-focused, generous, inner child rather than the policies and systems of white entitlement we’ve been trained into as adults?

Having diverse voices in your ranks is how you avoid these fiascos when unexpected or urgent situations arise. You build the relationships when times are good, so you have diverse people to collaborate with when times are hard. And you don’t get those relationships by setting the terms of the relationship and then inviting others in. You get those relationships by co-creating and sharing in the work as much as in the fruits of the labor.

White people, we can do this. Just take a deep breath, and choose what you’ll invest your energy in today.

On Father’s Day and Juneteenth

Father’s Day has been weird for me since I was 4 years old. That it falls on Juneteenth this year gives the weirdness a uniquely ironic twist.

I don’t have to worry about what I say in a Facebook post because my father already blocked me — or did I block him, this time? We’ve done this un-loving dance so many times now, I don’t remember. What I do remember is the last message he sent me in December 2021, angry about how I allegedly believe myself to no longer be white.

What I had said was: White people need to stop enacting harms against ourselves and one another in some delusional attempt to control our progeny, to control women, and to control folks of color.

What I had said was: I will never again tolerate you showing up at my house unannounced on a day when I explicitly told you I was unavailable, expecting me to perform for your newest woman like a seal in a zoo.

What I had said to my father, not 6 months after I had been raped at work, and just days after he showed up at my house interrupting my writing workshop retreat so he could force me to meet his newest fiancee after I had told him I didn’t want to meet her, was: You are never going to violate my consent again, no matter what it takes to keep you from violating me.

What I said was: expecting me to perform so you can hold the illusions in your life together is a symptom of the entitlement you cling to as a white man, and I will no longer play a part in upholding your lies.

Apparently the man who impregnated my mother doesn’t know how to be honest about the abuses he has perpetrated and hold himself accountable to not continuing those abuses. He isn’t honest about telling me at four years old, when our new Mexican neighbors moved in, that they would have to defer to him because he was a police officer and they had moved into “our” neighborhood and could “go back where they came from if they don’t like it”. He isn’t honest about how he treated them, and he isn’t honest about the racist, dehumanizing ways he taught me to treat them from that very early age. He isn’t honest about what his being a white man truly means, especially for people who have been at his mercy. He isn’t even honest about how much I myself have been at his mercy.

Apparently my father concludes that I reject my own whiteness because, like him, I must be incapable of humbly acknowledging I’ve benefited from — and contributed to — making mistakes which have harmed people of color throughout my life. My father thinks I can’t hate what white culture has done, without hating myself. So he took what I said about no longer tolerating white male entitlement in my life, and turned it into a story about how I am the delusional one, allegedly now believing myself to be Native American or Black or I’m not sure what, because he believes I cannot simultaneously accept that I am white and also that white people have some serious growing up to do. He doesn’t believe I can accept that I have some growing up to do without violently hating myself for it. That cognitive dissonance is just too much for him to bear.

Just for the record: I am 8-generations-in-America white. I’ve read the old archived news article describing my 6th great grandfather murdering Native Americans in the conquest of this land. I may do things like learn words in Cherokee, because I believe that Indigenous language preservation is critical and I owe a debt to Native peoples which can never truly be repaid, but you will never hear me claim to be Cherokee. I may spend a lot of time with Black friends because they’re generally more humane and comfortable to be around than most white people, but you will never hear me claim to be Black. I may have been mentored extensively by Indigenous elders who’ve invested more in my well-being and knowledge than anyone else on the planet, but I have no delusions that learning what I know from them will ever make me an Indigenous person. I know who I am, and I know the responsibilities of social and spiritual repair these facts put on my shoulders.

This is not the first year that my father and I are not speaking on Father’s Day. In fact, we’ve spoken on far fewer Father’s Days than not, in my 34 years on planet Earth. But this is the first year I feel some real peace about not welcoming his entitlement, his presumptuousness, and his demands of my energy into my life. There is still a tinge of sadness that he chooses not to appreciate or respect the adult human I’ve become. But I am at peace.

This is the first year I can truly say that I have relationships with men in my life that are mutually healthy. No clinging or chasing. No prioritizing one abusive male partner over everyone else. No domestic violence in my home. These relationships are very different from the old, familiar, unhealthy, comfortable, soothing toxicity of the relationship I struggled in for 33 years with my father. These men aren’t my “saviors” and they don’t pretend to have all the answers. They listen when other people speak. When they don’t understand something, they ask questions. They are not afraid of conversation. They are not afraid of truth. They are not afraid to help me heal what my own whiteness has done to scar me, and they are not afraid to hold space with me while I open myself up and perform my own surgeries on the wounds that caused the scars.

There are so many beautiful men showing me I can and do deserve healthy models of masculinity in my life. To these men, I want to wish you a very happy and beautiful Father’s Day.

And to the Black folks who fill my life with such wonderful examples of humanity, love, and dignity, I wish you a Juneteenth filled with peace and gentleness as we continue toward a future in which your unabridged Liberation becomes a collective, full-scale reality.

Redneck Solidarity

Redneck Solidarity: Black lives matter!

1999: I was 11 years old, and the Dixie Chicks‘ opening act was Ricky Skaggs. I already owned his album ‘Soldier of the Cross’, but apparently the rest of my generation didn’t know him so well. The Chicks came out on stage while everyone was bustling about for t-shirts and snacks, and commanded our attention. As they introduced their own opening act performers, Natalie explained:

We asked Ricky to share the stage with us for this tour because the music industry has for so long stripped us of our historic roots in the name of profit. We are Bluegrass artists who happen to have a hit-selling Country album. To appreciate our music, you have to understand where we come from. We want our younger generation of fans to learn where you come from, too, and what role this music and its history have played in shaping who you are and the media you’re buying.

They gave us ten minutes to find our seats and asked us to give Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder the same courteous attention we intended to give The Chicks.

The following year, their careers were effectively destroyed over speaking out against George Bush, and they sealed that coffin further by denouncing the Iraq war.

Tonight though, they took the stage with Queen Bey in perhaps the boldest statement of their careers: Redneck Solidarity with Black Feminist empowerment.

Daddy Lessons couldn’t have been more perfect an anthem for that solidarity.  It is the story of every poor Southern girl clawing her way toward Liberation from within the gun-totin’ Patriarchy. Ain’t make no difference her skin color — though let’s not get twisted thinkin’ everyone’s experience is the same across race. May be all women need empowerment. May also be white women and trans folks have more opportunities to share liberation with women and trans folks of color. May be that’s what Redneck solidarity really means.

My Daddy said shoot.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition,

Because Earl had to die. 

At a point in our country’s history, before the Plantation Owners frightened us into hating one another’s voices of freedom and silencing one another’s songs of liberation, we sang them together.

When I read that white country music fans were rebuking the CMA awards show because it was “Diluting its country brand by allowing a pop star to take the stage…”, my first thought was “WHERE WERE THESE PEOPLE WHEN I WAS CRYING ABOUT KIDD ROCK STEALING AIRTIME ON MY COUNTRY MUSIC CHANNEL???”

For real though, where where they? What was their complaint about Beyonce rooted in, if they were content to let Kidd Rock take over not only their stage for one night but also their Country music radio stations without complaint? What is the difference between Kidd Rock and Beyonce? We’re Southern, not stupid. Let’s stop pretending we don’t see this.

Upon learning Beyonce’s performance allegedly diluted “the value” of Country music, then I understood:

The Evangelical whiners are not upset about compromising the integrity of Country music. They are upset about compromising the country music brand. Their White Supremacy exists to reinforce Capitalism. White Supremacy and the Country music industry are so engrained, people have forgotten where the insidious business ends and our Southern heritage and roots begin.

Real Country came from making the best we could with both poor immigrants from Europe and their trafficked, enslaved neighbors from Africa singing together by the fire on Sunday evenings. Real Country is not about making money for multi-millionaires, especially by throwing a brilliant Black woman under the CMA bus. Real Country music “ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s Farm no more” and never gives up on the power of love to shoot straight from the hip without missing, especially to when aimed take down the Patriarchy. Real Country music honors women.

Real Country music is the Dixie Chicks and Beyoncé singin’ about their daddies teachin’ ’em to shoot in self-defense.