We Pod Black?* Black Rhetoric & Podcasting During White Reclamation

Tressie McMillan Cottom
5 min readJan 13, 2021
by Chioke I’anson

When the news broke on January 6, 2021 that the Capitol was “being besieged”, I was scheduled to be in my home studio. That is where I record my podcast with Roxane Gay, “Hear to Slay”. Oddly enough, the day had started going to, er, pot the moment I woke up. My doctor’s appointment was cancelled as I was in the car on my way. When I returned home, a malfunctioning transformer meant a black-out throughout my neighborhood. I live in a cell phone tower dead zone. When my electricity is out, I am cut off from the outside world. As it happened this day, I had to cancel our scheduled recording session.

The electricity returned just late enough to not warrant calling everyone back to the studio but just in time to be on social media as the news started to break. Images of screaming hordes of mostly white people were breaking down doors to take back their nation. The scenes moved from chaotic to unbelievable to violent and absurd. A man carrying a Congressional lectern. The police helping a woman being helped down the steps, after her crimes. A weirdo in a fur coat and little else. Some ninja cos-play. Lots and lots of screaming.

There is not much to be said that I have not said, mostly with friends and in safe spaces. I visited Christopher Lydon of Open Source radio on WBUR (Boston). Chris is good to talk to. He is sensible. He is comfortable that he does not know everything. I like that in a person.

I told Chris that what happened on the Capitol was the twin process of what happened the same day in Georgia. The violent insurgents were protesting democracy as Georgia was making democracy fulfill its promise. Both sides are responding to the reality of a plural nation, but only one side is willing to kill because of it.

Back on “Hear to Slay”, Roxane and I moved our Wednesday recording to Thursday. Our very smart production team knew what we knew — Roxane and I just needed to talk with each other and with our audience.

Tressie McMillan Cottom

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