This Land Is Your Land

Tressie McMillan Cottom
5 min readFeb 8, 2021

It’s been a busy week for country music and the post-Black Lives Matter, post-Trump, post-white-nationalists-insurrection America. Country music is having its come to Jesus moment, and proving yet again that their Jesus is a blue eyed white man.

A music form that is aggressively dedicated to being white had to reckon with the presence of race this week, which it really hates doing. The occassion is one of the biggest up-and-coming stars in country, Morgan Wallen, was caught being racist on tape.

In the footage, Wallen looks drunk. He is being loud, obnoxious and likely not for the first time. You can tell because his neighbor starts recording the event. Wallen can be heard saying n*gger, with the hard -er, several times, referring to himself and to his buddies, over and over and over again. What we learn from this is that in addition to having a penchant for being racist when he gets drunk — according to him, that’s the only time it happens — Wallen is also a horrible neighbor. Your neighbor doesn’t pull out the cell phone to video tape the first time you piss them off. They pull out the cell phone to video tape after you have pissed off the neighbor more than once

Wallen had looked like he was already just a royal screw up in the lineage of the country music bad boy era. I think Wallen sees himself in that mode, the Outlaw Country era from the late 1970. The problem with that is, in the 1970s, Waylon Jennings didn’t have to worry about cell phones.

I am sure that Wallen is not the first self-styled country music outlaw with a few drinking problems to be heard being casually racist for effect. He thinks it makes him sound cool and hip. And a guy with a mullet in the year 2021 needs all of the help he can get sounding cool. Because what’s more transgressive than saying the N-word out in public? It’s got to give white guys are very elicit sort of thrill, the kind of which only a drug or sex can compete. Wallen has demonstrated he has a problem with substance abuse. It makes sense…

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Tressie McMillan Cottom

Sociologist. Writer. Professor. MacArthur Fellow. Books, speaking, podcast: www.tressiemc.com