Updated: Jan 29, 2021
for zack. for mark.
the red undertones that inform my melanin were birthed in the black mountain foothills near the tennessee-mississippi border. my great grandfather albert found freedom just before the trail of tears migration and hooked up with an ornery black woman in westpoint, muddy waters’ neighbor. ms. cora mae, never one to hold anything long but money, sent him to his horse upon the news—she had things to do—my grandma would join the family business in a while. ms. cora mae carried three daughters and two sons into post-reconstruction mississippi, sown from different seeds. the women, their doors always open, were sexy to kill for. the men loyal enough to do the job—cooking shine and running game.
when the klan came calling the guns were loaded. my father and uncles, all under ms. cora mae’s command led rebellion against attack on their cottage industry, left red cotton to feed brittle soil, then scattered in four directions.
after three draft dodging years in miami, daddy ended up in oklahoma, where his sisters somehow landed and his mama joined them after california.
i am an okie. grew up on cherokee as did zack, my first best friend, who lived two blocks away and wore the street in his skin. we liked basketball, cars, and never watched westerns. zack disappeared in high school after one year in warpaint riding a spotted mare at pre-game. he was gone before i had the chance to tell him what i already knew. grandma never claimed native and hated anyone darker than a grocery bag. this is where i begin, on cherokee, trying to find zack to talk about this mascot issue.
the beantown honkies the johnson city jarheads the washington senators the oaktown wannabees the cushing crackers the tulsa rednecks the old baltimore bigots the chicago police department the white city afrikaaners the cook county overseers the heritage foundation the riverside peckerwoods the german shepherds
How politically correct can we get? To me, the folks who make these decisions need to get out more often. I think they insult those people by telling them, ‘No. No. You’re not smart enough to understand this. You should be feeling really horrible about it.’ It’s ridiculous.
Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida *
*St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, August 10, 2005
ms. brooks urged me to return to school from the nervous backseat of my mustang in 1994. but what triggered the movement was an enid, oklahoma drunken conversation in a honky tonk with friends from high school, all white and pseudo-liberal. we deliberated level playing fields & jesse jackson while the sad child of hank williams warbled something loud about loneliness. just as twelve years prior, i was cultural diversity at the table and no longer comfortable. one man, maybe my closest oklahomey in the bar, assured me the residuals of chattel slavery no longer existed, while leaning against the door of a 100-year-old family business. i enrolled in african american studies two months later. he will not remember this exchange any more than he will recall the night i was informed my blackness was a liability in his pursuit of teenage pussy. history will tell on you