Who’s Country?

by Tommy Craggs

Black and white photo shows eleven country music stars of 1947, all in fancy cowboy and cowgirl regalia, including fringed shirts, kerchiefs and intricately tooled leather boots; Minnie Pearl in flowered hat and shirtwaist among them
Grand Ole Opry performers in 1947 (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

For an unusually vivid demonstration of how race is made and remade in the United States, we turn to Asa Blanton, nursing student at Indiana State University. “I’m sorry,” she says, addressing her own camera, “but if you’re Black, you’re not country.”

She goes on:

I… I don’t care. And I wish—I meant that in the nicest way. But like… babe, I know you were raised in the country, or your grandparents were, I guess, your great-granny and grandpas, but… they was picking, OK? They wasn’t planting. Just keep that in mind. They wasn’t making money. They was getting sold for money. You ain’t country.

The video is worth watching, if only to appreciate the pursed-lip simpering of Blanton’s performance. She is all suppressed indignation. She minces and mugs. She shoots her eyebrows off in the general direction of the Indiana Dunes. She cocks her head, blinking in hammy exasperation, the face of someone who is preparing to enforce an HOA covenant. It is, in its marshaling of little gestures of superiority, a theater of genteel crackerism. 

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