I first caught it from my family, in our group text chat. My cousin sent one link to one video, then my aunt linked us to another, and then the conversation flowed. Soon it was national news: a brawl on the riverfront in Montgomery, AL. It started when a riverboat co-captain confronted a man for docking his pontoon in the riverboat’s way. It started with arguing, then the man attacked the co-captain, then the man’s friends came to beat the worker down, then more people rushed up to even the odds.
That man, and all the people who defended him, are white.
The worker, and all the people who defended him, are Black.
Even after the riverboat docked, a man was caught on video attacking someone with a folding chair. Reggie Ray, 42, is reportedly out of jail after turning himself in on disorderly conduct charges.
Early in the online comments Black Twitter erupted with a common phrase: Try THAT in a small town! It was a callback to country music star Jason Aldean, and his latest controversial single. The song reads like a series of warnings to undesirables of all kinds: from people who would “sucker punch somebody on a sidewalk” (a crime) to those who would “stomp on the Flag and light it up” (protected free speech). On top of that, the music video for “Try That In A Small Town” was filmed in front of a courthouse that was the site of a well documented lynching. Henry Choate, a Black teenager, was accused of assaulting a white girl. A mob dragged him out of jail, dragged him down the road to the courthouse, and hanged him there.
In this episode I get into the controversies over both stories. Notwithstanding the clapbacks from my Black brothers & sisters about the white men who got their butts kicked, these two incidents are about two different things. One is about vigilance… the other is about vigilantes. I found a Malcolm X quote that speaks to this in a rather powerful way, and you’ll hear it in the episode. If you’re not familiar with what happened, I summarize the story, include audio from the viral videos and play that Malcolm X clip.
Then we shift gears and hear from Prof. Adam Gussow of the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture. He and I had a great conversation, long before the Montgomery fight happened, about Aldean’s song. The cultural imagery that has defined the Old South dovetails neatly with this song. (Listen out for his explanations of the Pastoral South and the Beknighted South. Very helpful.)
Near the end of our conversation I ask the professor to tell me one thing about the South that Northerners (or any non-Southerner) might be surprised to learn. I found his answer touching… maybe you will, too.
COMING SOON: Ask Me Anything! It’s been more than a month since The Night Light launched, and I’m eternally grateful for your support. But you’ve been hearing me go on and on… I’d like to hear from you! You’re the best part of this show, after all — without you, what’s the point? So we’re going to do an Ask Me Anything episode, where I answer your questions live on my YouTube channel. Click ⬅️ that link, then click the notification bell at the bottom left corner of the video, and YouTube will notify you when the stream starts.
As a paid subscriber, your questions will always get priority over the general public. Go to this post and comment with whatever you want to know (I’m very hard to shock!). You’re also free to email me directly, especially if your question is a bit more sensitive or personal: Joshua@NightLightShow.com. However you get in touch, be sure to include where you live and how to pronounce your name (if needed).
Our first A.M.A. will be on Thursday, August 24th at 7:00 p.m. ET. Join us live, watch on demand or listen to the podcast for highlights. Can’t wait to hear what’s on your mind!
Thanks as always for listening, and thank you for being a paid subscriber. Building this show has been more challenging than just about any other program I’ve worked on, especially since I’m a production team of one at the moment! Journalism & broadcasting are art forms to me, and I take my “art” very seriously. (Too seriously?) There’s a lot of work yet to do, and my vision is extremely ambitious, but sometimes it feels like I’m racing to catch up to my own show. Still, it’s coming along. We’ll get there. I’m honored that you’re along for the ride.