Ain’t No Hate Allowed in These Hollers
A response to the Traditionalist Worker Party rally in Pikeville, Kentucky
Rousers. Not rebels — that’d be far too kind a thing to say, a badge of honor they could proudly pin to their cloak of hateful thinking. Just rousers. That’s what they are. Come up to to these mountains thinking they can prey on men and women whose roots are planted knee-deep in this wounded earth, on people who are hungry for a voice and a chance, hoping for a dollar and a future, praying that their babies can move on with more than what they were given — people who didn’t invite them, nor want them here. A copperhead, these rousers — slithering their scaled body into town, hijacking the hillbilly cause, screaming about “worker rights” and “solidarity”, throwing words like “faith” and “family” and “folk” as though they were quarters, like they’re about to make a wish and toss them into a fountain spewing hatred.
Little do they know.
Folks around these parts, they know. They know that faith is more than a set of biblical beliefs, more than just one prescribed view on some far-away deity. They know that faith is an act of believing in human kindness, that if your tire blows out or you get stuck in the ditch that eventually someone in a vehicle much bigger than yours will pull up beside you to offer help, even if they don’t know you, even if they’ve never seen you in these parts before. They know that faith is believing that when Christ said “love one another,” he meant everyone, not just the ones that look like you, not just the ones who read the same scripture you do.
Yes, the people around here — they know faith.
They know family, too. They understand that family is more than just blood, that it’s more than just who’s brother or sister or cousin to whom. Family is the people who will show up at your door, unannounced, and still politely ask to come in. They’re the ones you’ll ask to stay for dinner, the ones who would never dare ask on their own, for fear that they might be thought of as rude. They’re the ones who will sit with you on your porch at 5 am on a sticky summer morning, holding you tight and crying with you when you just can’t bear another night of daddy being gone. They’re the ones who will play with you on the playground, cheer you through your graduation, believe you can do it even when you don’t think you can. Yes, up these parts, family is a bond that’s usually unbreakable — though family may not always look like you.
And folk? Yeah, we know folk. Folk is like mama, who just happens to have light skin, and Mrs. Toney, who just happens to have dark skin, who look past each others flesh tones and still greet one another with a warm embrace at the local Piggly Wiggly, asking How you do? and How is your kids? and What’s them grand-babies been up to? and saying Oh Mrs. Toney your dress looks so pretty! Where you buy it? I’d like to get me one just like it! and Oh Mrs. Ramsburg how was your Passover dinner? Was your mother able to come? I thank you for inviting us, and I’m sorry we couldn’t make it! and Would you mind sharing that recipe for those baked beans you made me a’while back — my husband just loved them!
Yes, around here, we know folk.
That’s because around here — in spite of what you may have been told, or what you may have grown to believe — we’re a dignified people, a group of generally indiscriminate persons who proudly stand loud and strong under the banner of redneck or hillbilly or deplorable or whatever pejorative label we may be marked with these days. (As the poet Nikki Giovanni has noted: “The last pejorative term you can use in America is ‘hillbilly.’”) We — black and white; gentile and Jew; gay and straight; left, right and center. We — people of a multitude of colors, creeds, and backgrounds; people with or without money; people with one mama or two; people who’ve been here for generations or just moved here from across the border; people who like their cornbread sweet or their naan fresh off the grill.
Yes, we Appalachians. All of us.
Don’t you see, rousers? Ya’lls way of provoking ain’t welcomed here. This isn’t about party; it’s not about political leanings or who voted for who. This is about hate. Listen: “Appalachia’s coming at ya! Nazi scum: we’re gonna smash ya!” So why don’t ya’ll just keep moving right along? ’Cause we ain’t going to be allowing no hate up in these hollers.