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Dara Starr Tucker: Confronting Racism

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Dara Starr Tucker: Confronting Racism

Political Commentator Dara Starr Tucker talks about why many white Americans hide behind “politeness” as an excuse for not confronting racism. She also discusses the January 6th insurrection, the song “Try That in a Small Town,” and the damage done by nostalgia for the Confederacy.

Dara is a social commentator and vocalist. Following the January 6th insurrection, Dara was inspired to educate others about the political and social issues facing our country. Her video commentaries have garnered widespread attention, her tiktok and Instagram channels have over a million subscribers, and last year she started the podcast I’m All Over the Place to take a deeper dive into the content she posts.

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Dara Starr Tucker:

We had watched this cauldron sort of boil to the brim. We had all watched it, and we had seen the comments by Trump. Previous to that, we had seen him saying, reporters had pointedly asked him, “What will you do if you lose?” And he just could not fathom that concept.

Ken Harbaugh:

I'm Ken Harbaugh, and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.

My guest today is Dara Starr Tucker. Following the January 6th insurrection, Dara was inspired to educate others about the political and social issues facing our country.

Her video commentaries have garnered widespread attention. Her TikTok and Instagram channels have over a million subscribers. And last year, she started the podcast, I'm All Over the Place to take a deeper dive into the content she posts.

Dara, welcome to Burn the Boats.

Dara Starr Tucker:

Thank you. Thank you for having me, Ken.

Ken Harbaugh:

I am probably your biggest fan. I have been binge watching your YouTube shorts. I have a ton of questions, but I want to start with how you got into this. How did a professional jazz vocalist and songwriter get into political commentary?

Dara Starr Tucker:

I've always had something to say. I've always been a very outspoken, very opinionated sort of person, and music is what I was raised with. So, it's been a kind of a natural form of self-expression, but I always felt that it was a bit limiting, that I wanted to make commentary on what was happening in the culture.

But I felt boxed in by the fact that I was a singer, and that people don't see me that way. People don't want to hear me talk about these things. They don't want to have their bubble burst about whoever or whatever they think I am.

And so, I just kept quiet, and I really didn't have much of an outlet to express myself outside of music. But events of late, of the last four or five years have kind of created an imperative for me, and I think many others to get out there and start speaking out where they otherwise, would not have.

And so, I've always felt like there was an audience out there for me. That's been my feeling. It's like there's an audience, it's there. They are there, they exist, I just need to find a way to connect with them. And so, I just kind of started talking about what was on my mind. And they've slowly come on board.

Ken Harbaugh:

Are you finding that your musical background and your musical career right now is amplifying or at least informing the political side, the political messages you're trying to convey? Or does sometimes it feel like it's holding you back?

I read a quote of yours talking about growing up in the church and the self-censorship that you experienced in your music. How has that evolved with your political outspokenness?

Dara Starr Tucker:

Well, how does being a musician inform the music? Well, I was never really someone to put out a whole lot of messaging about politics or race, or culture, which are a lot of the things I talk about now. I was never really the one to include, incorporate those messages into my music. My music is very personal, has been very personal up to this point.

And the last album that I did — not the current one that I have out, but the one before that I put out during the pandemic, and it was after all the George Floyd killing and all of the protests and everything that broke out. So, we wanted to do an album that spoke to the political zeitgeist that was happening at the time.

So, that was really the first time that I put that messaging in my music, and allowed those worlds to merge a little bit, because I had started speaking out online by the time I put that album out.

So, those worlds have been very separate up until now. The music has not influenced the activism, nor has the activism influenced the music until very recently. And I'm enjoying kind of watching those worlds meld much more than they have in the past.

Ken Harbaugh:

January 6th was the catalyst for you, it was for a lot of us. But I'd love to get a sense of where your head was that day, watching it unfold, and then in the days and weeks afterwards, because I had my own evolution, I want to talk about January 6th through the lens of race as well. What were you thinking as you saw it unfold, and then as you had a little time to ponder it?

Dara Starr Tucker:

I mean, I think I was probably like a lot of folks, I was just sitting there with my mouth hanging open. I remember it vividly. It's just one of those events that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives, I think. Which is the crazy thing about seeing it being downplayed now is just, people were just taking a tour, and exercising their first Amendment rights or whatever.

I mean, it's crazy now to see it being flipped and being spun into something that it was not. We had watched this cauldron sort of boil to the brim. We had all watched it, and we had seen the comments by Trump.

Previous to that, we had seen him saying, reporters had pointedly asked him, “What will you do if you lose?” And he just could not fathom that concept. I remember seeing a rally of his where he literally said, “What if I lose? I don't know what I'm going to do if I lose, and I won't be able to stay in the country. You guys got to come out for me.”

You could tell it was going to be such an affront to his ego. And we were all kind of preparing for the like, “Dear God in heaven, what is about to happen?”

And I remember there was a reporter on MSNBC named Stephanie Ruhle, who the day of the election, and we were all … I mean, it was so tense on election day. The day of the election, she ended up in — she was just doing an announcement of like, “Hey, it's election day, and the polls are opening, and blah, blah, blah.”

She cried, she broke down and cried. And I remember putting that in my … I might've put that on my TikTok, might've been one of the first slightly political things that I posted on my TikTok.

But there was such a tension, and we all knew what that boiling point, we didn't know quite how far it was going to go, but we knew that it was going to come to a boiling point. We knew in our hearts and in our souls that there was something very ugly that was about to happen, regardless of which way it went.

So, January 6th was just a culmination of all of that. It was a culmination of something that we had seen coming. I mean, all the way back in 2016 when the first election happened, we knew this was not going to go to a very good place.

So, it was just a manifestation of something that was happening before our eyes that we knew was possible, but we had never seen in our lifetimes.

And so, just to see “American patriots” scaling the walls of the U.S. Capitol, it was so deeply disheartening. It was embarrassing, it was shocking, I was flabbergasted, absolutely flabbergasted. I just was there with my mouth absolutely hanging open in total disbelief at what I was seeing.

Ken Harbaugh:

The scariest thing for me is that on January 6th, and in the immediate aftermath, we thought of it as some kind of culmination. I think you just used that word. We saw it as a breaking point. Even Republican leaders referred to it as a breaking point, but very quickly fell back in line.

And we're at another … well, I can't even call it an inflection point, because it seems like every time the former president reaches some limit and crosses it, the faithful fallback in line, he just threatened the Department of Justice.

He said, “If you come after me, I'm coming after you.” Something that in a previous political era would've been unconscionable. He would've been held accountable. And if January 6th was not an example of the fever breaking, I don't know that anything can break the fever. Do you have a more optimistic take?

Dara Starr Tucker:

No, I don't necessarily. It's kind of that tipping point where, almost the point where I hit after Sandy Hook happened, with regard to the gun debate. There was something in me that just broke.

It was like, “Well, if that wasn't enough to change the trajectory and to change the conversation and to bring folks to a more reasonable kind of meeting point around this issue, I don't know what is enough. I don’t know what will be enough.”

If 26 school children being slain isn't enough, then we may be past the point of where we can say, this is salvageable. So, I think we will get to a more reasonable point when we are past this particular chaos agent, because I don't think a lot of people have the ability to manipulate people to the degree that he does.

I think a lot of people would do it if they could, but he is no less than a cult leader. We are experiencing and observing nothing less than a cult of personality. No different than Reverend Sun Myung Moon or Jim Jones or David Koresh, any of these dangerous cult leaders that we've observed who can take their followers — literally, they can take them off of a cliff with him if they wanted to, a Charles Manson type who could make people kill for him if he wanted to, who there is no limit to what these people will do for him.

So, that probably is my only sense of relief or the reprieve that we might have from this, because I do feel like a lot of the extremism that we are viewing right now is centered around a very specific figure. It is very much a cult of personality.

So, when the personality is no longer here or is no longer able to gain the kind of power that he wants, then a part of that will dissipate, but doesn't absolve any of these folks of their culpability in going along with just this truly reprehensible behavior.

Ken Harbaugh:

I agree. And I have actually come around on this. I used to talk a lot about Trumpism writ large, and it's a phenomenon. It exists apart from Trump himself, and it is dangerous, and it will outlast Trump. But there is no other figure on the right today that can marshal the kind of cult following that he can.

There was talk not too long ago of Ron DeSantis being the heir apparent and arguably more dangerous because he was more proficient, more capable. But no one is going to beat a cop to death for Ron DeSantis, they'll do it for Trump. They've tried to do it for Trump, they've done it for Trump. And he's a singular figure in that regard.

After January 6th, there was so much commentary focusing on the racial aspects of that insurrection, but it was largely, at least as I observed it, white people in their silos talking about race, others in their silos talking about race. And you have said that a lot of the conversation with regard to January 6th around race needs to be contextualized.

Your show does an amazing job of that. And I'm wondering if you are hearing from white people whose eyes you're opening to the racial aspects of what we're going through that they're not otherwise appreciating.

Dara Starr Tucker:

Oh, yeah. I have been able to have more conversations in the last couple of years with white folks around the issue of race than I ever have before.

And that's one of the heartening things for me in this entire process, is that I feel like there are more and more non-black people who are willing to have these conversations and who are deeply interested in having these conversations, and who can understand now that there is an enormous racial subtext to what we are experiencing now in the United States politically, socially, culturally. More white people than there have ever been.

Because I grew up around a whole lot of white folks, and these conversations were always something that they would avoid, and they were always something that was very uncomfortable, and they would want to gloss over with, “Well, I don't see race, I don't see color.” It's just not important to me. And I just love everyone equally. I don't care if you're red, brown, yellow, purple, green or polka dot, we're all equal and we all bleed the same blood.”

You hear these lines over and over and over again. And I think for them, it's something that maybe was supposed to come off as reassuring, as comforting, as they're safe, this is a safe person.

But those of us who walk around in these bodies of color, we know what we experience every day, and we have to look at life through a different lens. And so, that sort of lip service doesn't really hold much water. It really doesn't matter very much to us, because our reality is really quite different.

So, I'm seeing some very different conversations that have started to happen in this age of … the age of Trump really is the era that we're in. Particularly, though since 2020, the conversation has really shifted, and I'm glad for it.

Ken Harbaugh:

What is the biggest barrier in your experience to starting those conversations? Is it just proximity, being around people that encourage you to have those conversations? Is it the fear of both sides to engage? What are you encountering?

Dara Starr Tucker:

Well, what do white folks fear of having those conversations? Is that the question?

Ken Harbaugh:

Sure. Let's start there.

Dara Starr Tucker:

Because black folks have been having-

Ken Harbaugh:

I'll put my priors on the table. I mean, that was how you described this atmosphere in which you're taught not to … or to say you don't see race. And spending my formative years in Montgomery, Alabama, going to public school, it was something you avoided.

Except our rival schools were Robert E. Lee High School and Jefferson Davis High School. I wasn't lucky enough to go to Sidney Lanier High School. But that was the environment. As far as I know, it's still Jeff Davis and Robert E. Lee High School. I live in Ohio now, so we know a little better, but you just avoided it.

Dara Starr Tucker:

Absolutely. There was definitely a lot of avoidance. I mean, that was definitely the flavor of the day in my childhood, in younger years. And a lot of folks just avoided the conversation and kind of covered themselves, as I said, in the cloak of, “I don't see color, I don't see race,” which is really a very deeply dismissive, I would say, at the very least, it's a dismissive statement to make to a black person or someone who has experienced the effects of racism in this country, in this world.

But the aversion, I think, if I can just be frank, with a lot of folks, a lot of white folks, the way that you are socialized, many of you are socialized, is around this idea of decorum and politeness over everything.

We're going to comport ourselves in this specific way. And that in itself is a basis for morality and for virtue. Our virtue is our politeness. And so, I think, there are groups like the KKK or whatever, Neo-Nazis and Skinheads and groups that are overtly racist, that can come off as an affront to a lot of white folks’ sense of virtue and morality. It's like, “Well, we don't put it out there like that.” That's just impolite. That's vulgar.

And so, they are as offended by overt racism as they are by anything, because it is impolite, and it's just not decent. It's not the kind of discourse that decent people engage in. So, I think in confronting racism and having those really difficult conversations around race, it feels indecent to a lot of white folks to have.

Whereas being raised in the black family, we were sort of having those conversations privately all the time. It was a natural part of the way that we were socialized. So, I think a lot of white folks really have to push past that sense of like, ugh, there's an electric fence that they bump up against. And even having the conversation or calling themselves white or just identifying someone by their color, that in and of itself feels racist.

And I get a lot of white folks in my comments section that want to push back against what I have to say, not because I'm saying anything that's horribly racist or biased against anyone, but because I'm saying, “A white man did this, and when he did this, then a black man responded in this way.”

It's like, “Well, you are the racist. You're the one that's talking about race.” And you see that sort of kneejerk response all the time from white folks where they feel that they get to name what is and is not racist, based on the fact that the person speaking is being a bit vulgar in their discussion, in their frank discussion of race.

So, I think that's probably the fundamental blockade that we have in addition to some deeper issues of just not wanting to confront some of the realities that exist because they don't make you feel good about yourself. You've been told a different story.

We've been handled with kid gloves. Most white folks have been handled with kid gloves around this issue of race all their lives. They have never had to really confront it at all. And so, when they have to, when they're forced to, it feels like someone is doing a wrong or committing an offense against them.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, that coddling of white sensibility starts very, very early. It did with me, and I'm looking now, we just did a quick hit on the curricula that's been approved for some Florida elementary schools that includes Prager University, really propaganda videos.

I'll roll some of them at the beginning of this interview that say things like, “It's better be taken as a slave than killed” or have Frederick Douglass implicitly criticizing Black Lives Matter. I mean, it's just insane stuff. And it's literally cartoonized so that it is that much more ingestible by children. The politeness disease starts really early.

Dara Starr Tucker:

Yeah, it really does. And it's a disease, I think you name it correctly. It's just, you got to be willing to shed that skin.

I'm a new follower of a lady on Instagram. I think she does TikTok as well, I don't remember her exact handle, but she's an anti-racism educator, and you can tell that she's an older lady, older white lady who's confronting that very thing of just like, look, we have been handled with kid gloves over this thing all our lives.

And a lot of the anti-racism education for us is just in stripping away that expectation that we should be treated tenderly around this. And we've got to be able to have frank and real conversations because other people are experiencing real life consequences as a result of our ignorance.

So, our ignorance is the issue. And we have to wake up and shake ourselves and start to have some difficult conversations, which is … that's a hard sell when you are, let's say a white guy who lives in Topeka, Kansas or whatever, that may not even be the whitest place. I'll say Franklin, Tennessee because I know something about Franklin, Tennessee.

You’re a white guy in Franklin, Tennessee, you don't have to confront this stuff. You can put the blinders on, and you can pretend that it really doesn't exist. There is no real incentive for you to address this stuff head on.

So, my hat's off to the white folks who do, who choose to be … and they don't have to, they do not necessarily have to have these conversations.

But I encounter those folks every day, and I'm really thankful that they're willing to have those conversations because we cannot make progress unless we have a large contingency of white folks who are willing to speak out and do what you're doing and facilitate conversations and talk to other white people.

Because they’re people who will listen to you that will shut down if they see me, if they see a black woman talking about this stuff, immediately, dismissal, no please. They don't do anything but complain. But they see a white dude with an American flag behind them talking about it, and it's going to come off a little bit differently to some folks.

Ken Harbaugh:

That's going to be my new handle, white dude with American flag. It's intentional, and I'm glad you appreciate that, the subtext.

Your podcast does a masterful job at making that case, at breaking down barriers. I especially love your latest series on Try That in a Small Town. Can you talk a little bit about what prompted that?

Dara Starr Tucker:

Oh, well, why, I think we all know what prompted it, it's been the talk of the town for a long time. Speaking of Franklin, Tennessee-

Ken Harbaugh:

Was the courthouse Franklin or Columbia?

Dara Starr Tucker:

Oh, Columbia. I believe Aldean likely lives in Franklin, Tennessee. A lot of the folks that are associated with producing that song and video I'm sure are residents of Franklin, Tennessee. And it's a suburb of Nashville, for those who may not know.

I lived in Nashville for 13 years. And so, I got to experience a lot of that kind of mindset of just these good old boys who are — they're cosmopolitan enough that they're not running around with a piece of straw coming out of their teeth or anything like that.

So, they feel that they're worldly enough where they're not the ones who need to be addressed. They're not the ones who have issues with race. They know skinheads, they know people who are overtly just awfully racist. And so, that's a lot of what I encountered in Nashville, honestly.

So, yeah, Jason Aldean made a song called Try That in a Small Town, where it was basically, taking a lot of the behaviors that a lot of Fox News viewers witnessed around the George Floyd protest, the Black Lives Matter protests.

And he took all of that and put it in a music video showing people, spitting in … or it turns out this is all like stock footage or stuff from the UK or Russia, Belarus and Canada. It's not even American footage.

But he put all of this footage into a music video and talked about spitting in cops faces and disrespecting the flag. And “Don't come and Try That in a Small Town, because we're going to run you out. We're going to do this and we're going to do that. And I have my granddaddy's shotgun.”

And then a lot of his language starts to evoke some imagery and some stuff around the sundown towns that have existed in the South for a long time, and in the south and beyond for a long time, then claimed that he did not do this intentionally. That there was no racial subtext to any of this, which is untrue.

And then it turns out that he filmed a music video in front of a famous lynching site in Columbia, Tennessee. A courthouse where a man was lynched and where a race massacre or whatever happened many years ago in Tennessee.

So, I did a response video to it, and honestly, I felt like … I don't know if you saw my original video on it where I said, “This is the problem that I have with this video that Jason Aldean did.” And I haven't even looked at the comments on YouTube nor Facebook, because the few that I saw were just atrocious.

There was such a backlash against folks who had anything to say about this song and video. But I felt like, and I got a lot of flak from black folks, honestly, and from white folks too. Some enlightened white folks were saying that I didn't go far enough in my video response about this.

But I said I was willing to give Jason Aldean and his team the benefit of the doubt that maybe, just maybe possibly, they did not know the history of this courthouse, and that that really wasn't the issue, that they intentionally or … whatever, that they intentionally did this.

I said, this is the problem with race in this country, is because we're not having enough of these difficult conversations. And his inner circle clearly is not diverse enough where anyone would be saying, “Hey, did you know that this happened here? And maybe this is not the best idea that you do this video here?” They're not having those conversations.

But I got a lot of flak from people for saying that maybe he didn't know that. But it's my honest belief that he himself probably did not realize where he was filming that video. And at no point did I even say explicitly that it was racist. At no point did I say it was racist. I said it evoked images of lynching. It was definitely referencing a mentality around lynching.

And obviously, we know what a lot of the roots of that are, but there was so much backlash from that video. So, I decided to do a three-part series called Stuff You Could Try in a Small Town, since the song's called Try That in a Small Town. It's like, “Okay, let's talk about small town, America.”

And I went through and talked about opioid addiction and suicide rates and maternal death rates, and towns that have run black people completely out for 75 years, and have had school segregation even up until this day. And all kinds of issues that arise in small towns that we don't want to have conversations about.

We just want to have this sort of idealized, Andy Griffith — I've been watching The Waltons lately, and so that's on my mind. The Waltons are on my mind. I'm like white America has this idealized vision of itself.

It has this idealized version of what it actually is, and it usually does not involve its treatment of the black community, of the immigrant community, of the gay community, and how it has treated women historically. It does not involve any reference to these groups that have been historically marginalized.

And those effects are so much worse oftentimes in small towns. And so, I felt like it was time to have a conversation about that. So, that's exactly what I did.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, thank you for provoking that conversation. We did a short piece before Jason Aldean song came out on Newbern, Alabama. It's got hundreds of thousands of views. Now, this is a town just west of Montgomery down Highway 80, where I went to high school; 75 to 85% black community that has never had a black mayor.

And this is for the listeners — google Patrick Braxton was elected the last black mayor of Newbern, they locked the doors of City Hall. They refused to give him the town's mail, they closed the bank account.

You mentioned the term “sundown town.’ I think a lot of my friends up here in Ohio aren't going to know what you mean, but in the deep South, that is still a thing. And it was very much a thing in that halcyon period that Jason Aldean is hearkening back to, which wasn't that great if you were a black person in the deep South after dark. What's a sundown town?

Dara Starr Tucker:

Sundown town is a place where it is known and understood and oftentimes, communicated that black people are not welcome after dark. If you are a black person and you are in this county after dark, beware, because we're coming after you, you better get out of here before the sun goes down.

And so, I am 100% sure that Jason Aldean knows what a freaking sundown town is, and that those writers of that song know what a sundown town is.

And these towns exist. It's not only in the South, I mean, Oregon, I really would like to do a thing on Oregon and how much history there is there around these types of towns. There are many sundown towns still in Oregon and in many other places outside of the South, I mean, in rural America, period.

So, yeah, I mean, we have things like The Green Book that existed where black folks had to create a special book where if they were traveling through the South, they knew what venues and what restaurants and what hotels were actually welcoming and open to black people, because you could be kicked out or lynched or beat up or threatened or terrorized if you ended up in the wrong place.

So, there had to be a book called the Green Book to tell black folks like, “This is where you're safe, and these are the places that you need to avoid.” A lot of this history was very much being referenced in that video and song.

Ken Harbaugh:

Where do you get your ideas for your hits? Do they just come to you, or are people telling you, “You got to cover this?”

Dara Starr Tucker:

Generally, it's just things that I encounter from media that I'm observing or conversations that I'm having. I'm learning now more and more to listen to people in my comments section when they say, “Hey, have you talked about this thing?” Because then I know where people's heads are.

Because I tend to get off sometimes into little cubby holes and I could have stayed with that small town series, Things You Could Try in a Small Town. I could stay with something like that forever.

I could have stayed on Civil War history forever, or I could burrow in and do a deep dive history of classic television. I did one thing on the Dick Van Dyke show, and something on the I Love Lucy show. And Star Trek, those are my particular areas of interest.

And so, I have to remind myself to kind of step back from that, get out of my little narrow myopic point of view and actually listen to what people have to say.

But oftentimes, I'll just be observing something, something I'm watching or conversation that I'm having, and I'll be like, “Wow, I wonder about this thing. Let me do a little bit of a deep dive on that and see if there's any information to be mined from that.”

And so, yeah, generally, it's just me and my curiosity. But I'm starting to listen just a little bit more to people in the comments.

Ken Harbaugh:

The Civil War stuff was great. I hope you got awesome comments on that, and I hope you revisit it because there's just — especially having grown up in the South, there is this nostalgia that is really manufactured, and it was a political movement long after the Civil War ended. You highlight that with the story of the freeway flags.

Can you give us the short version of these things, which I think people assume have been up ever since 1865? No, they were a political signal in the twenties and later.

Dara Starr Tucker:

Right, yeah. The confederate flags, which I always get so much flag for calling them confederate flags, I call them confederate battle flags. And I still had people in the comment section, like, “Well, you know, that's the flag of …” and they never have the right flag. I think it was converted from the battle flag of Virginia and then brought on to represent the confederacy in general.

But yeah, these flags and monuments started to pop up after the Civil War as a way of basically saying, “Hey, the south will rise again.” That's the attitude there. And the groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Daughters of the Confederacy are responsible for erecting a lot of these monuments.

Monuments that still existed in Nashville — when I moved there in the middle 2000s, monuments that were in state houses, and all along freeways and things like that, public parks and things.

The Daughters of the Confederacy got in and worked with education departments to change the curriculum to reflect a certain mentality around the Civil War. It's like, “Hey, we didn't really lose, and this was a war of northern aggression, and this sort of lost cause thinking. It's all been very deliberate.”

And this stuff really started to spring up in the early part of the 20th century. A lot of these monuments started to spring up at that time when the KKK, the second iteration of the KKK was gaining relevance.

Then of course, when the civil rights movement happened, the 100th anniversary of the Civil War, a ton more monuments sprung up, confederate monuments.

And then in the sesquicentennial, the 150th anniversary, which happened in 2011, then you had a whole other push from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and a group called the Flaggers who started putting up a ton of these things off freeways.

I mean, massive, like 100-foot, 60-foot flags off of freeways, and they are well-funded. There are groups who have secret, private memberships and meetings, and they're paying for these things to be erected as a real kind of refute to anyone who claims that there's been any progress in these areas, they're going to remind you who they are.

Ken Harbaugh:

And all in honor of a political movement that lasted (I don't know if this is your observation or someone else's) — that did not last as long as Grey's Anatomy.

Dara Starr Tucker:

Oh, yeah, I said it lasted the fourth length of the Grey's Anatomy series.

Ken Harbaugh:

My daughter loves that.

Dara Starr Tucker:

150 years later, we're still commemorating something that lasted literally four or five years. But yeah, as I said in that piece, it's not so much about commemorating the dead, which they would like to convince you of, “But we're just honoring our dead.”

Like, no, no, no, no. You're honoring what they fought for, which is the right to continue. And the Confederate constitution specifically laid out their right to preserve negro slavery, not just the concept of slavery in and of itself, but the right to enslave negroes.

So, I think a lot of this stuff, honestly, the people perpetuating this stuff and waving confederate flags and things, they don't know their own history. Because as I said in that piece, these people were very open about what they were doing at the time.

If you read the articles of secession for Texas and South Carolina, and Mississippi, states like that, it was all about slavery. It was all about being able to preserve specifically negro slavery. And they were not secret about it. They were not trying to hide their motivations or pouch it in state's rights or taxation or anything like that. They wanted you to know exactly why they were doing what they were doing.

So, a lot of these people are just … I think they're just ignorant of their own history, because it's been taught to them in a very specific way. And again, they've been coddled and just have not had to come outside of that bubble. And they're just wanting to preserve this concept of themselves that really is a false one.

Ken Harbaugh:

Which is why these latest efforts, and I'll point to Florida again, to really brainwash children about our history are so alarming. We see the effects of that. We have historical lessons to point to as to what happens when you don't confront the reality of your history.

And it never ends well and seeing it happen again or continue to happen in Florida, I mean, it should be sending off alarm bells everywhere.

Dara Starr Tucker:

Yeah. It's endemic of the kind of just willful ignorance that we have perpetuated in this country for far too long. And I think it's a real — it's a just a telling thing that many people outside of the U.S., they know our history better than we do oftentimes.

And it's an embarrassing thing to encounter someone who is not American, and they're telling you basic things about American history that we don't really understand ourselves because we've been wrapped in bubble wrap and have not been required to know just basic things because, oh, it's going to hurt a little.

I think Ron DeSantis literally said at one point that these white school children, they don't need to feel bad about themselves, that you're going to make them feel bad. So, you're telling them that their ancestors were racist, and that white people have been racist. No, they're going to grow up with a complex. So, don't tell them things like that.

So, I don't know. I don't have any answers as to why this deep ignorance and dedication to ignorance persists. But I think with educators like myself and many others who are doing the same kind of work online, in spaces like TikTok and Instagram, I think if you want real history, it's at the point now where there's not really an excuse for you not to have real history. School is not the only place where you can learn.

Ken Harbaugh:

I'm glad you said that, because that's where I land when I hear you, and I appreciate this too. When you give Jason Aldean and his team a kind of a pass for saying they're probably more ignorant than racist, there really is still not a good excuse for that kind of ignorance in this day and age.

Dara Starr Tucker:

There's not, and to be clear, I do feel that the video is racist, I just don't necessarily feel that they realized how deeply racist it was in filming it, where they filmed it. I feel like they meant to say what they said, and there was very much a racial subtext, but I don't think they necessarily realized that where they were doing it was telling an even bigger story than what they knew they were telling.

But yeah, the ignorance is willful at this point and even in a case like his, when you realize what you've done, “Oh, hey, did you know that you filmed this video about essentially lynching in sundown towns? Did you know that you filmed this in front of a famous lynching site?” Okay, now what's his response? That's the question.

Once he finds out that he did that, is there an apology? Is there an effort to say, “Oh my goodness, what a full pot, what an awful thing to have happened? We didn't realize we were being so insensitive. Please forgive us, please excuse us, we'll take the video down.” There was none of that.

And so, that to me, speaks even more loudly about the motivations for what he was doing. He just played into his base that much more, and like, “Hey, we're Americans.” And the quote that he put out there was just utterly ridiculous.

Like, “Hey, well, this is just all about small town people just taking care of each other, looking out for one another.” Painting this sort of Mayberry idyllic picture where you're talking about going and getting your granddaddy's gun and shooting somebody and running them out of town. There's a disconnect in what he feels that he's saying and what he actually is saying.

Ken Harbaugh:

That MO of never backed down, never apologize, never empathize — that feels like a new thing. We have been taught that top-down in observing our political leaders. There used to be such a thing as a shame in public life.

And if the Jason Aldean episode had happened a decade ago or 20 years ago, more often than not, it could be a learning/a teaching moment. And I just feel like there is a shamelessness on the right these days that has been learned.

Dara Starr Tucker:

I mean, maybe it's too simple an answer, but I do blame the era of Trump for that, because I think he's been a huge example in how that strategy can be a winning one. You double down, you get even tougher, you get even louder, you get even more obstinate, and in your face about it, and you don't apologize.

You don't give one ounce of ground, you don't retreat, you don't surrender. And I think a lot of folks have picked up that MO and they have figured out that it's a winning strategy and it works, and it makes them feel more empowered. It makes them look stronger. And so, there's no downside to them for doubling down on something like that.

Ken Harbaugh:

What are you working on next? Can you give us a preview of anything in the pipeline?

Dara Starr Tucker:

Oh, goodness. I have so many things in the pipeline. I announced a while back that I was doing a series on toxic conservatism, and a lot of the videos that I have done since then have kind of tangentially related to that.

But I really want to kind of dig into that and start doing some pieces on folks like Ronald Reagan and just kind of getting into just really deeply understanding like, “Why do so many people dislike this man?”

He is celebrated in right-wing circles as the great communicator, and he's just seen as like this — even Trump has modeled himself, his slogan Make America Great Again is Reagan's slogan. And the right idolizes him, but the left detests him. Why? Why is he this figure of disdain by so many people, and his history is deep. I mean, it's really just-

Ken Harbaugh:

And conflicted. It's really interesting.

Dara Starr Tucker:

It is and you know who else's history is very conflicted? Richard Nixon's. Richard Nixon, who founded the EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, and who was also the one who went after these segregation academies (I said in one of those small-town videos), he's another one who's really hard to understand, Lyndon Johnson as well.

But getting into some of those figures and people like Phyllis Schlafly who were activists. She campaigned against the Equal Rights Amendment for women. This is a woman who was the champion against equal rights for women. And the John Birch Society and Moms for Liberty and groups like this.

I am conflicted a little bit on how much of my attention to focus on these groups that really, in my estimation, worked to uphold a form of white supremacy, and how much to really highlight the good that I feel like a lot of black folks have done, and have gotten out there … black folks who have fought against this stuff.

And there are so many figures that I could be highlighting within the black community and even the native community, which I want to talk about more.

So, I'm working on finding a balance between the two, because I don't want my online presence to be all about like, “Hey, let's talk about this awful person who did this awful thing,” let's also celebrate the good.

And so, I'm also working on some stuff that covers a lot of the film and television and the music that I love, which is usually classic stuff from the forties, fifties, sixties and seventies and stuff. So, as my podcast says, I am all over the place. I'm working on probably 10 different projects right now.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, I can't wait to see what you come out with next. Thank you so much, Dara, for joining us today.

Dara Starr Tucker:

Thank you, Ken. I've enjoyed myself. Thank you so much for having me on.

Ken Harbaugh:

Thanks again to Dara for joining me. Make sure to check out her podcast, I'm All Over the Place. You can find Dara on TikTok at Dara Starr Tucker.

Thanks for listening to Burn the Boats. If you have any feedback, please email the team at [email protected]. We're always looking to improve the show.

For updates and more, follow us on Twitter at Team_Harbaugh. And if you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to rate and review.

Burn the Boats is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Our producer is Declan Rohrs and Sean Rule-Hoffman is our audio engineer. Special thanks to Evergreen executive producers, Joan Andrews, Michael DeAloia, and David Moss.

I'm Ken Harbaugh, and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.


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