I grew up in the midwest. I remember walking between grain silos and looking up at the stars, the ice-cold water of a creek that ran through my hometown, driving home Sunday afternoons after church to eat lunch with my family and watch whatever game was on (well, they did. I’d play video games or read at first, and then eventually play the piano in the living room).
I didn’t know that the world I grew up in could be called conservative or religious or white, it was just home. And I certainly didn’t know that there are countless people in America who grew up in an entirely different world.
Years later, Donald Trump wins the Presidency. I lived in Minneapolis (at the time, St. Paul now), an urban center that exemplifies many of the things rural folk might imagine a city to be: diverse, busy, liberal.
One of my best friends, a Mexican-American man near my age, sent me a text message just as I was getting to bed for the first time in the era of a Trump Presidency. The evangelical world had elected Trump, who said some horrible things about his people. He wondered about his place in Christianity--if this, what felt like such a strong rejection of his culture and heritage, was the calling card of too much of American Christianity for him to be a part of it.
A student told one of my other best friends, a white man like me, that some of his family went to bed that night expecting vans to come the next day to take their families away and deport them. That’s how regime change happens in much of the world, and they were afraid it was going to begin happening in America too.
I also know that for some rural white Americans who have been left without access to clean water or adequate support from their elected officials, the Trump moment felt like a triumph. For others who I grew up with who felt belittled, talked down to, ignored, by the increasingly elite politicians and increasingly elite media, the Trump moment felt like a victory, like recognition.
I also know that for white supremacists all across America, famous ones like David Duke who openly tout their hate, and closeted ones who walk the same streets I do and behave because they know they must, Trump felt like a moment where they could step out of the shadows.
I know that for countless black people, the shock, grief, and surprise felt by most of the white liberals they knew was just another reminder that even they can’t truly understand what it means to be a person of color in America.
I know that I am confused and angry and sad and somehow a little bit hopeful. Things cannot remain how they are, they must change. This song is about that.
I don’t know, I don’t know what to do
I wish the man in the white house could say that too
I don’t know, I don’t know where I’m from
my mother’s home was built on land bought with blood
maybe we need more than eye contact and talk
maybe we’re missing the point of it all
Help us make this record happen.