Joe Rogan has been in my newsfeed for weeks. I have a lot of feelings about Joe Rogan, many of which have already been voiced by Michael Harriot, but they all seem to lead back to the same exact question:
What the hell happened to white boys?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I think Joe Rogan types are anything new. They’ve been around a long time, but there also used to be a whole lot of white boys willing to take some lumps for the common cause of what’s right.
I single out white boys because, while Black expression—political, artistic or otherwise—continues to fight the good fight, mine and later generations seem to be at it alone. I mean, my father’s generation had white boys like Kris Kristofferson. If you’re not familiar, Kristofferson was one of the biggest country music stars of his day. Here’s a lyric from his song “The Law is for Protection of the People”:
So thank your lucky stars you’ve got protection
Walk the line and never mind the cost
And don’t wonder who them lawmen was protecting
When they nailed the savior to the cross
Not exactly the type of lyrics you’d expect to hear on pop country radio today, but that song is on an album that went gold.
From another song, “The Best of All Possible Worlds” on the same album:
I was runnin’ through the summer rain try’n’ to catch that evenin’ train
And kill the old familiar pain weavin’ through my tangled brain
When I tipped my bottle back and smacked into a cop I didn’t see
That police man said, “Mister Cool, if you ain’t drunk, then you’re a
I said, “If that’s against the law then tell me why I never saw
A man locked in that jail of yours who wasn’t neither Black or poor as
Again, imagine a pop country star even tweeting something like that today. His contract would be torn up, albums pulled from the stores and an apology letter would be posted by his publicist before Jordan Peterson even got a chance to self-victimize about it.
People like Kristofferson were part of a proud tradition of not just telling it how it is, but how it actually is. These days so many white people confuse telling it how it is with telling it how it’s convenient and the tradition seems to be lost.
The anti-CRT types would have you believe all white people are being blamed for all the injustices of the world. They want their fellow whites to believe that the evil acts committed by white men are not only justified, but must actually be acts of good because they were committed by white men. Suppress the vote, ban books, do everything possible to look away from the past. Not because there’s anything shameful back there, but because if you do look at the past you may just discover that there were other white people who didn’t think like that at all. There were other white people who’d just as soon slap the fuck out of bigots as look at them. And not just a few. At one point there were enough to win an entire Civil War.
But the tradition doesn’t start there. In this country, it goes back as far as the country itself.
We like to believe that racist views were more widely held the further back in the past you look, but again, we love to tell it how it’s convenient. The truth is that as long as there’s been oppression there have been people fighting against it, and they weren’t only the people directly facing that oppression. There was never a time in this country during which bigotry was accepted by the entirety of white people. But believing there was such a time in the past increases the chances that there will be such a time in the future.
That’s what worries me about the white boys. Now is the time for them to tell it how it is, but all I can hear are the ones telling it how it’s convenient. In other words, on a scale of John Brown to Kris Kristofferson, far too many come up as Joe Rogan. But it doesn’t have to be that way. They can return to the old tradition.
I know they’re out there.
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