Do you remember Dukes of Hazzard? Those zany country boys, their hot cousin in booty shorts and wise ole Uncle Jessie? Well I loved the Dukes of Hazzard growing up and everyone black I knew did too. A friend even mentioned he’d have slid his Brooklyn ass across the hood of the General Lee on sight and all his friends wanted to find a girl like Daisy.
It was Friday night, family television and I know it was Friday because I always watched Dallas and Falcon Crest right after. Don’t even ask, but I digress.
It was a culture, it was new, and it was a world you didn’t know but you recognized because the themes were universal. I didn’t have an Uncle Jessie with moonshine criminal charges but I did have an Uncle Skeet that always went “to get something outta my trunk” to smoke on after a meal. But he was wise af when that weed hit. I didn’t have a Boss Hog, but Cleveland damn sure had a crooked mayor. I didn’t have a Cooter but we sure did have a Jan; that honorary friend who showed up when it was time to eat.
And likewise, don’t think there wasn’t a white kid in Des Moine watching Good Times not staring at Thelma’s ass when she took African dance lessons.
But if this show were still on, and many like them in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, think of how woke knee grows will tell you it was racist; that we are complicit in our consumption of hillbilly culture, the dismissal of black faces in Georgia and all other manner of shaming that woke folks engage in. Personally, I despise people using their engagement to shame other people to prove that they are smarter or cooler or blacker. Like S T A W P.
Woke simply cannot become elitist cultural capital where you look down your nose at my Friday night fun. It doesn’t somehow liberate you or redeem you because you’re so above us all. Woke should mean you’ve actually seen some shit; you recognize all the “isms” and it can’t just be racism. What you’ve seen should stick to your bones. It should crawl under your skin no matter what you’re doing with your day.
But woke should also be a recognition that people come from so many different perspectives and starting points when it comes to tough conversations around “isms”. Recognize this and stop belittling people. I can be critical of republicans and democrats, and at the same time, seek them out without compromising my values; I can still hold them to a standard all while fighting the power.
Now, does this mean to be so distracted that we completely disengage from the harsh realities of the world? I don’t think so but I do worry about what “getting there” looks like. I worry about what successful social engagement and knowledge looks like. When have we read enough books? Been to enough rallies, wrote enough checks to be free of the complicity of injustice? I honestly don’t know, and I definitely have not gotten there. But I think the problem is that “there” just doesn’t exist. There isn’t a bullseye of enough but there is life and experience and sometimes, blissful distraction and entertainment.
And if I could get away with it legally, in Leipers Fork, you could find my black ass sliding across the hood of the General Lee on my way to vote.