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Posts Tagged ‘race’

Albums 21: Jesus Freak

Jesus Freak

Richard Newton

 

I wanted this essay to be about a different album, Pearl Jam’s superior sophomore effort, Vs. (1993), Zach Braff’s masterful Garden State soundtrack (2004), or Metallica’s beautifully risky S&M (1999). The playlist in my head shuffled through all of these, but none of them stuck with me long enough to write this essay.

The problem wasn’t the music. For a decade those albums have had a secure place in my rotation. Their lyrics always inspire. I’ve talked about all of them with complete strangers.  Simply put, I don’t need a reason to listen to them.

But this essay needed to be about an album I’ve struggled to listen to. This essay is about the songs I can’t stand  because they know too much about me. This essay is for the record that saw me through the times I could never forget and thus, choose not to return.

This essay’s for DC Talk’s Jesus Freak (1995). (more…)

Writing about white supremacy

On Sunday night, I received a notification from Facebook that someone had posted to my page for Gospel According to the Klan. I set up the page for my book before the book launched in 2011 to point folks to coverage, reviews, and events. When I noticed the notification, I had to suppress a shudder. These days, the only people who post on my poor book’s page lately are white supremacists who don’t realize the page is dedicated to an academic monograph or the occasional person who threatens to “beat my ass” for me being a Klansman (I’m not a Klan member or a man, but that’s often beside the point).

Sure enough, someone posted a racist meme with images of Donald Trump, hooded Klansman, a white Jesus, and Hitler. The accompanying text declared, “Join the Clan! Vote Trump! America Was Founded As A WHITE NATION! TRUMP 2016! It Is Not Racist To Take Back What God Gave Us!” I took a screenshot and deleted the post. I now have a file with screenshots of racist memes and threats from that page alone, just in case I need a record. I don’t want to think about what that just in case would include.

“I have to deactivate this page,” I tell my partner, “I can’t take this anymore.” (more…)

Track 3: Tuesday is Gone

Tuesday is Gone

Douglas Thompson

 

When I was twelve, my father took me to an electronic blowout sale in an abandoned department store less than five minutes from our house. The Panasonic single component system held everything a young boy could want: turntable with precision needle technology, radio with AM and FM, equalizer, and stop-my-heart-cold two cassettes players with dual-function recording. If that wasn’t enough for this wannabe rock star, the system came with three-foot high cabinet speakers.

As an only child, I would spend hours in my room listening to music—memorizing all the lyrics to albums or songs on the radio. Top 40 was mostly my game since my parents frowned on the “rock” station. Before I came into possession of that component system, I also came under the influence of my two older cousins, who entered our lives and house as their parents’ marriage deteriorated. Our home became  a designated safe zone and the boys moved freely into and just as easily out. Their imprint, however, stayed with me, especially an introduction to Southern rock.

The younger cousin, two years older than me, became a constant companion in the summers. We listened to the radio and copied lyrics on yellow notebook paper. We imagined starting a rock band, even though neither one of us knew how to play a guitar or drums. Singers, we decided, got the most girls, so we would be singers. (more…)

Monsters

I’ve been thinking about monsters. Not the zombies I usually research and write about, but the language of monsters that lurks in our everyday speech. The rhetoric of horror is so pervasive and so present. It comes to us when we have something to speak that seems unspeakable. It is deployed to justify violence and harm. It is used to vilify and to distance. It appears in moments of trauma. The language of monsters is disastrously unavoidable.

I’ve been thinking about how we create monsters and ultimately about how we destroy them. Creation and destruction tangled together, dependent on one another. Their ubiquity begs for explanation when I have no words to give.

I’ve been thinking about monsters because I also can’t quit thinking about Darren Wilson killing Michael Brown.

Like so many people, I was heartbroken over the grand jury’s decision last week. I was also enraged and frustrated. I keep looking at my children and imagining the suffering of  Brown’s parents and all the parents that fear the same fate for their children. I don’t know their anguish; I can’t really. But, I’m haunted by autopsy sketches, the pain etched into his mother’s face, and the wounded bodies of protesters. I hug my children a bit tighter and hold them more closely. I also realize that their white skin offers them protection that Brown did not have.

I keep coming back to monsters.

In his testimony for the grand jury, Wilson described Brown, “it looks like a demon.” Dexter Thomas notes the dehumanizing language that Wilson employs with both “it” and “demon,” which resonates with a larger history of denying the humanity of African Americans. Thomas describes how the events in Ferguson feel like a bad movie playing out exactly like we feared it would. Spoilers aren’t an issue, if the pattern is the same.

(more…)