“The most problematic part of The Dolly Parton Moment is us.”

We like that story as much as we like Dolly Parton. Rather, we like Dolly Parton because we like that story about who we are. The idea that Dolly is Dolly because of the strength of American diversity is one that pretends to be about how good Dolly is when it is really a story about how good we believe we are. In this story, the soul of America is a progressive teleology that will always, inevitably bend toward justice. America’s soul is immune to everyday evidence of its fallibility, and outright antagonistic to any suggestion that it is more myth than manifest destiny. Belief in the soul of America is as strong as another belief, with similar embodied metaphors. The soul is always at war with the nation’s racist bones. You know the racist bones. Those are the bones of which every good white American is fond of claiming not to have. If the racist bone exists, it is rendered as vestigial and unruly as a floating rib. There one minute but gone the next, and of no real consequence to the working of the body.

All of my reading also revealed this: Dolly Parton is one of very few living texts that could survive projections of America’s soul without buckling beneath its contradictions. It is treasonous to do so but if one strips away all the adulation, they are left with an odd totem for our socio-political times. Dolly is a white Southern multi-millionaire boomer who produces self-consciously white music while wearing a stylized drag of a fallen Southern belle. Only a society that willfully believes itself “post-racist” could produce such a queen. Post-racist does not mean there is no more racism. It means that we believe there is an us after we rid ourselves of our errant racist bones, which we are certain will come to pass. We craft Dolly into an unproblematic fave because the most problematic part of The Dolly Parton Moment is us.

Source: The Dolly Moment – essaying

I wish I could write like Tressie McMillan Cottom. Damn. Like Dolly, she can “write her ass off”. After each read, I feel like a drummer who starts crying after watching Larnell Lewis for the first time. Read the whole thing.

The woman can write her ass off. Her gift is one that is easy to overlook as mere folk. That is the category sophisticated people place art done by women, by and for poor or rural people, by people of color, created outside of a cultural institution, and that uses pastoral themes. Home. Love. Longing. Desire. Faith. Those sound basic and they are. Dolly’s creative genius is multifold and one of its top tiers is how deceptively easy her songwriting appears. Maybe anyone could write something like: “I don’t love you/and the grass is blue.” But anyone didn’t, and you didn’t either. Because you can’t.

An Anti-racist Reading List

The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’

The heartbeat of racism is denial.

— Ibram X. Kendi

It’s been said that racism is so American that when we protest racism, some assume we’re protesting America.

— Beyoncé Knowles

Now is a good time to read these books, follow these authors, confront our history, and unpack what we need to unpack.

Systemic racism is a machine that runs whether we pull the levers or not, and by just letting it be, we are responsible for what it produces. We have to actually dismantle the machine if we want to make change.

Source: Oluo, Ijeoma. So You Want to Talk About Race (pp. 29-30).

When social scientists describe racism as “systemic,” we’re referring to collective practices and representations that disadvantage categories of human beings on the basis of their perceived “race.” The key word here is “collective.” Much of the racial stupidity we encounter in everyday life derives from the fact that people think of racism as individual prejudice rather than a broader system and structure of power.

The thing about white supremacy is that it socializes all of us to minimize its terror, to systematically deny or underestimate the harm. “We’ve come so far,” “Things are getting better,” “It could be worse”—all of these tropes minimize racial terror. Americans have been socialized to look on the bright side despite centuries of colonial and racial violence, torture, and the oppression of minorities. Our problem is not and has never been overreacting to racial terror. Our problem is the hegemony of under-reaction, denial, minimization. Ours is a society that has always socialized white folks to live in the midst of racial oppression but go on with their lives like normal. At every turn, those who oppose white supremacy have been met with denial, violence, “race card” accusations, or magnificent claims about progress. It seems that in the minds of many white liberals, we should all be celebrating the fact that most of us are not physically in chains. White supremacy wants you to look at four hundred years of uninterrupted racial terror and conclude “Things aren’t so bad.”

Source: Fleming, Crystal Marie. How to Be Less Stupid About Race (p. 12, pp. 128-129).

Being seen racially is a common trigger of white fragility, and thus, to build our stamina, white people must face the first challenge: naming our race.

White people in North America live in a society that is deeply separate and unequal by race, and white people are the beneficiaries of that separation and inequality. As a result, we are insulated from racial stress, at the same time that we come to feel entitled to and deserving of our advantage. Given how seldom we experience racial discomfort in a society we dominate, we haven’t had to build our racial stamina.

Source: DiAngelo, Robin J.. White Fragility (pp. 1-2, p. 7).

White rage is not about visible violence, but rather it works its way through the courts, the legislatures, and a range of government bureaucracies. It wreaks havoc subtly, almost imperceptibly. Too imperceptibly, certainly, for a nation consistently drawn to the spectacular—to what it can see. It’s not the Klan. White rage doesn’t have to wear sheets, burn crosses, or take to the streets. Working the halls of power, it can achieve its ends far more effectively, far more destructively.

The trigger for white rage, inevitably, is black advancement. It is not the mere presence of black people that is the problem; rather, it is blackness with ambition, with drive, with purpose, with aspirations, and with demands for full and equal citizenship.

The truth is, white rage has undermined democracy, warped the Constitution, weakened the nation’s ability to compete economically, squandered billions of dollars on baseless incarceration, rendered an entire region sick, poor, and woefully undereducated, and left cities nothing less than decimated. All this havoc has been wreaked simply because African Americans wanted to work, get an education, live in decent communities, raise their families, and vote. Because they were unwilling to take no for an answer.

Source: Anderson Ph.D., Carol. White Rage (p. 3, p. 6).

History duels: the undeniable history of antiracist progress, the undeniable history of racist progress. Before and after the Civil War, before and after civil rights, before and after the first Black presidency, the White consciousness duels. The White body defines the American body. The White body segregates the Black body from the American body. The White body instructs the Black body to assimilate into the American body. The White body rejects the Black body assimilating into the American body—and history and consciousness duel anew.

The Black body in turn experiences the same duel. The Black body is instructed to become an American body. The American body is the White body. The Black body strives to assimilate into the American body. The American body rejects the Black body. The Black body separates from the American body. The Black body is instructed to assimilate into the American body—and history and consciousness duel anew.

But there is a way to get free. To be antiracist is to emancipate oneself from the dueling consciousness. To be antiracist is to conquer the assimilationist consciousness and the segregationist consciousness. The White body no longer presents itself as the American body; the Black body no longer strives to be the American body, knowing there is no such thing as the American body, only American bodies, racialized by power.

Source: Kendi, Ibram X.. How to Be an Antiracist (p. 33).

Racist and Antiracist Definitions from “How to Be an Antiracist”

How to Be an Antiracist” opens up each chapter with a racist and anti-racist definition. I copied them out for my own reference.

Chapter 1, Definitions

RACIST: One who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea.

ANTIRACIST: One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.

Chapter 2, Dueling Consciousness

ASSIMILATIONIST: One who is expressing the racist idea that a racial group is culturally or behaviorally inferior and is supporting cultural or behavioral enrichment programs to develop that racial group.

SEGREGATIONIST: One who is expressing the racist idea that a permanently inferior racial group can never be developed and is supporting policy that segregates away that racial group.

ANTIRACIST: One who is expressing the idea that racial groups are equals and none needs developing, and is supporting policy that reduces racial inequity.

Chapter 3, Power

RACE: A power construct of collected or merged difference that lives socially.

Chapter 4, Biology

BIOLOGICAL RACIST: One who is expressing the idea that the races are meaningfully different in their biology and that these differences create a hierarchy of value.

BIOLOGICAL ANTIRACIST: One who is expressing the idea that the races are meaningfully the same in their biology and there are no genetic racial differences.

Chapter 5, Ethnicity

ETHNIC RACISM: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequity between racialized ethnic groups and are substantiated by racist ideas about racialized ethnic groups.

ETHNIC ANTIRACISM: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between racialized ethnic groups and are substantiated by antiracist ideas about racialized ethnic groups.

Chapter 6, Body

BODILY RACIST: One who is perceiving certain racialized bodies as more animal-like and violent than others.

BODILY ANTIRACIST: One who is humanizing, deracializing, and individualizing nonviolent and violent behavior.

Chapter 7, Culture

CULTURAL RACIST: One who is creating a cultural standard and imposing a cultural hierarchy among racial groups.

CULTURAL ANTIRACIST: One who is rejecting cultural standards and equalizing cultural differences among racial groups.

Chapter 8, Behavior

BEHAVIORAL RACIST: One who is making individuals responsible for the perceived behavior of racial groups and making racial groups responsible for the behavior of individuals.

BEHAVIORAL ANTIRACIST: One who is making racial group behavior fictional and individual behavior real.

Chapter 9, Color

COLORISM: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequities between Light people and Dark people, supported by racist ideas about Light and Dark people.

COLOR ANTIRACISM: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between Light people and Dark people, supported by antiracist ideas about Light and Dark people.

Chapter 10, White

ANTI-WHITE RACIST: One who is classifying people of European descent as biologically, culturally, or behaviorally inferior or conflating the entire race of White people with racist power.

Chapter 11, Black

POWERLESS DEFENSE: The illusory, concealing, disempowering, and racist idea that Black people can’t be racist because Black people don’t have power.

Chapter 12, Class

CLASS RACIST: One who is racializing the classes, supporting policies of racial capitalism against those race-classes, and justifying them by racist ideas about those race-classes.

ANTIRACIST ANTICAPITALIST: One who is opposing racial capitalism.

Chapter 13, Space

SPACE RACISM: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to resource inequity between racialized spaces or the elimination of certain racialized spaces, which are substantiated by racist ideas about racialized spaces.

SPACE ANTIRACISM: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity between integrated and protected racialized spaces, which are substantiated by antiracist ideas about racialized spaces.

Chapter 14, Gender

GENDER RACISM: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequity between race-genders and are substantiated by racist ideas about race-genders.

GENDER ANTIRACISM: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between race-genders and are substantiated by antiracist ideas about race-genders.

Chapter 15, Sexuality

QUEER RACISM: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequity between race-sexualities and are substantiated by racist ideas about race-sexualities.

QUEER ANTIRACISM: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between race-sexualities and are substantiated by antiracist ideas about race-sexualities.

Chapter 16, Failure

ACTIVIST: One who has a record of power or policy change.