Writing about Race

This week’s writerly nugget:  It’s damned hard to write about race.  Or, rather, it’s hard to write ‘honestly’ about race.  Maybe I’m just having a hard time writing about it because I’m white and worrying about how it will be perceived.  I keep going back over what I’ve written, wondering:  Does this sound too blunt?  Does this part even sound true?  Will anyone believe that people really do — in some parts of this country — still talk like this?  Who is going to be offended when they read this phrase/sentence/word?

In the end I just have to shake it off and write on.  Strategy:  I pretend that no one will read it, that I’m just writing down the history of my family, of Southeast Missouri, of my home, for no one’s eyes but my own.

Some Missouri history:  shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War, Harry Macarthy wrote a hymn to Missouri, encouraging the people who were of the Southern persuasion to join the Confederacy, or even to secede:

Missouri! Missouri! bright land of the west!
Where the way worn emigrant always found rest,
Who gave to the farmer reward for his toil,
Expended in turning and breaking the soil.
Awake to the notes of the bugle and drum,
Awake from your slumber the tyrant hath come!
And swear by your honor your chains shall be riven,
And add your bright star to our flag of eleven.
They forced you to join in their unholy fight,
With fire and with sword, with power and with might.
´Gainst father and brother, and loved ones so near,
´Gainst women, and children, and all you hold dear;
They’ve o´er run your soil, insulted your press,
They´ve murdered your citizens—shown no redress—
So swear by your honor your chains shall be riven,
And add your bright star to our flag of eleven.
Missouri! Missouri! oh, where thy proud fame!
Free land of the west, thy once cherished name,
Now trod in the dust by a despot´s command,
Proclaiming his own tyrant law o´er the land;
Brave men of Missouri, strike without fear,
McCulloch, and Jackson, and Price are all near.
Then swear by your honor your chains shall be riven,
And add your bright star to our flag of eleven.
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