Vance with wife Usha at Republican convention, July 2024

Vance with wife Usha at Republican convention, July 2024


This website and podcast has been busy this week preparing a new podcast episode while writing about J. D. Vance and his misrepresentation of his ethnic background.

I thought enough had been said.  But wait.  What is this all about?

In 2013, while both were attending the elite Yale Law School, J. D. Vance and his future wife Usha Chilukuri jointly organized a discussion group focusing on “social decline in white America”.

Really?  A child of immigrants from Andhra Pradesh, India with a degree in early modern history develops a particular interest in “white social decline”?  What does “white decline” even mean?

A year later, Usha Vance began work as a clerk under then DC circuit judge Brett Kavanaugh, a later Trump appointee to the Supreme Court.

Four years later she clerked for conservative Supreme Court justice John Roberts.

And here’s where it quickly goes from fishy to super rancid-smelling…

Three years ago, Usha Vance contributed to the election campaign of Blake Masters, who was running for a US senate seat for the state of Arizona.

In a small blessing for US democracy, he lost.  Why a blessing?  Because 37-year-old Mr. Masters is an open and awowed fan of the white supremacist “philosopher” Sam Francis, who died nearly 20 years ago.  You may have heard versions of Francis’ “thinking” tied-up with white-fright ideas like “The Great Replacement Theory”.

Masters has also worked for and received millions of dollars in backing from Peter Thiel, the creepy multi-billionaire puppet-master behind the financial and political rise of J. D. Vance, the ultimate fake “man of the people”.

Now.  Either Usha Vance has had her mind poisoned by a conniving coterie of wealthy white supremacist “Libertarians”, or she is so eager to join the ranks of western financial and political elites that she is blind to the hideous hypocrisy of her decisions, much like Priti Patel and Suella Braverman in the UK.

Either way, there are some seriously ugly forces at work in America right now.


PS. Before We Were White will continue to highlight political issues directly rooted in concepts of “racial supremacy”, which is America’s unresolved original sin.


#jdvance #ushavance #heritagefoundation

Sometimes I Forget Myself



Vance pedigree

Vance pedigree


The image shown is the family tree of J. D. Vance, Trump’s pick as GOP running mate in this November’s election.

I’ll explain the funny little flag symbols at the end of this shortish piece…

Aside from being Trump’s new poodle, J. D. Vance is the author of the notorious New York Times bestseller “Hillbilly Elegy” published by Harper about 8 years ago, which was made into a film, and has re-entered the bestseller lists this week.

This book is a political manifesto thinly disguised as a memoir, and was lapped-up like milk and nectar by the urban chattering classes, who believed they had found their “man on the inside”, someone able to explain why an entire segment of American “white folks” seemed so singularly unable to lever their “white privilege” in economic terms.  Even worse, while suffering the same economic conditions historically endured only by Black and indigenous Americans, these “white folks” seemed to insist on voting for conservative political candidates.

How could this be?

In his book, Vance claimed to be a “hillbilly” descended from “Scots-Irish” people, before proceeding to punch-down hard from his position as a venture capitalist supported by pseudo-Libertarian billionaires like Peter Thiel.  Vance essentially blamed 20th century Appalachian poverty on an inherited and unadapting “Scots-Irish” culture, and more recently, on a resigned and work-shy, “let’s live on food stamps” mindset.

Vance’s knowledge of the economic and ethnic history of Appalachia is not just limited – it is flat-out wrong.

In fact, his knowledge of HIS OWN ANCESTRY is even less informed – but that doesn’t stop him from developing an entire sociological thesis based on what looks like a quick Google search of his surname origins.

Southern Appalachia has been one of the most ethnically mixed places in the USA since the 1770s, and almost no one with deep roots there can legitimately claim that “Scots-Irish” forms the greater part of their genetic inheritance.  This is a fact which can be backed-up with hard data, whatever the faceless editors of Wikipedia pages, and propagandists for a “white” history of Appalachia might claim.




People with a far better grasp of history than J. D. Vance seem to have absorbed the ideas of writers like David Hackett Fischer (author of Albion’s Seed) and used these ideas as a springboard for the construction of an imaginary “Scots-Irish” identity.  Fischer is a serious historian, but his vision of who first settled the American frontier has some serious blind spots.

Here’s how it works:

Pick a remote ancestor from your family tree with the ethnic identity you prefer.  Vance has ancestors who have been in America for centuries, so he has 16 second great grandparents who were born in America during the 1800s.  Let’s ignore the fact that NOT ONE of these 16 second great-grandparents can be proven to descend from Ulster folk – aka the “Scots-Irish”.

Ignore the fact that even if Vance had one second great-grandparent with a great-grandparent from Northern Ireland, this one single remote ancestor would still represent only a miniscule percentage of his overall genetic inheritance.

Of course “genetic inheritance” is only a tiny part of who we are.  Our cultural environment has far, far more to do with our identity.

In Vance’s case, he would like to believe he is “Scots-Irish” both by blood and culture – perhaps because in the imagination of many insecure “white” American males, such a background speaks to their idealised, “white” Christian nationalist aspirations and preferred virtues.

Fighting for honour?  Scots-Irish.  Stubborn and independent?  Scots-Irish.  Clannish?  Mistrustful of government?  Loyal to a fault?  Why, those are “Scots-Irish” things, of course.

I’ll stop right there, and let you read quotes which Vance included and seemed to endorse in his book “Hillbilly Elegy”:

“In traveling across America, the Scots-Irish have consistently blown my mind as far and away the most persistent and unchanging regional subculture in the country. Their family structures, religion and politics, and social lives all remain unchanged compared to the wholesale abandonment of tradition that’s occurred nearly everywhere else. This distinctive embrace of cultural tradition comes along with many good traits – an intense sense of loyalty, a fierce dedication to family and country – but also many bad ones. We do not like outsiders or people who are different from us, whether the difference lies in how they look, how they act, or, most important, how they talk. To understand me, you must understand that I am a Scots-Irish hillbilly at heart.”

This sort of palpable nonsense is problematic and dangerous on multiple levels.

Number 1, Appalachia is NOT primarily Scots-Irish, and Vance certainly isn’t primarily “Scots-Irish” by genetic or even cultural inheritance.  Not even close.

How do I know this?  By spending twenty years tracing the ethnic roots of heartland America.  Vance is a distant cousin on multiple lines, and I happen to be aware of who “his people” really were, because they are “my people”.

Number 2, the persistence of certain cultural traits in 21st century Appalachia has nothing to do with any continuity of a “Scots-Irish” subculture from the 1700s.

Every single trait Vance sees as “Scots-Irish” might equally apply to Appalachians of Welsh, German, English, Scottish, Dutch, Swedish, Jewish, Romani, or indeed, Cherokee, Shawnee, or African ancestry.  One might quite rightly speak of “Appalachian” or “Mountain” culture, but this culture is the product of DIVERSITY and centuries of inter-ethnic mixing.

There is actually IS one aspect of “Scots-Irish culture” seen in America which might be described as especially “Ulster Protestant”, but self-identified “Scots-Irish” people rarely mention it.

This would be a familiarity with the actual mechanics of colonialism, and how to use violence to maintain economic supremacy over a disenfranchised indigenous population…the “Scots-Irish” did it first in Ulster, and many did it later on the Appalachian frontier.  Read up on “The Paxton Boys” for an introduction to this subject.

Number 3, this elevation of traits supposedly unique to the “Scots-Irish” is just another, more subtle face of an older American belief in race and race eugenics.

Instead of attributing certain local traits and behaviors to the complex cultural environment created during the violence of the frontier era, people like Vance just call it innate “Scots-Irishness”.

This is all a bit reminiscent of those old newspaper horoscopes which were always intentionally vague – so people could always find a way to relate the words to their own circumstances…

Instead of looking at Appalachia’s past and current problems through the lens of racism, reliance on hunting and subsistence farming, bad economic policies, poor infrastructure, corporate pillage of resources, and revivalist religion creating a legacy of poor education going back to frontier times, let’s just call it “Scots-Irish hillbilly culture”.

In other words, Vance and other charlatans like him – even when using the word “culture” instead of “race”- actually want to believe that certain things are exclusive to certain groups.  That certain things are “in their blood”.

This sort of fake history, this cherry-picking of ancestors, this claiming of “true American values” as being mainly synonymous with only certain groups, this, this, bullshit quite frankly- it goes to the very heart of the current social and ideological divisions seen in the USA.  The center can no longer hold.

Half of America wants to grow-up and confront the past with open eyes in order to move forward in a fact-based reality.

The other half wants to drag everyone into a world based on a conjured reality – a world of propaganda and historical whitewashing, a world of jingoism, blind nationalism, and Christian faith.

This is why politicians are banning books.  This is why American history teachers are being put under pressure with new restrictive legislation, why Florida’s current governor now endorses new history books claiming that African-American slaves actually benefitted from enslavement in certain ways.

White Christian Nationalists want to “own” American history, and by extension, they can then “own” American identity itself.

And when the facts don’t match their fake identity, they will simply lie, or attack the person laughing at The Emperor’s New Clothes.

After all, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past”, as George Orwell warned in his famous novel, “Nineteen Eighty-Four“.



I’ve given so much time to Vance’s claims of so-called “Scots-Irish” ancestry because many, many people who claim this identity in Appalachia are fully as multi-ethnic as anyone else there.

And this includes people like J. D. Vance, who is happy to embrace a scant, possibly non-existent ethnic component of his “white” ancestry to suit an ideological political narrative, while ignoring his closer ties to the mixed-ethnic “Carmel Indians” of Ohio and other brown people of Eastern Kentucky like the Melungeons.

This does a great, a serious disservice, to the complexity and fascinating real history of the region – and an even worse disservice to truth.

It is White Christian Nationalist propaganda worthy of anything spoken by German National Socialists about “pure Aryan” people back in the 1930s and 1940s.

Never, ever, become a book-burner. But after you’ve read “Hillbilly Elegy“, make sure to place it firmly in the “fiction” section of your book collection.

Now.  About the symbols in the Vance pedigree.

The modern national flags are only meant to give a general indication of the predominant ancestry on each line. But even the people behind, say, an English flag will be mixed to some degree.

You will note the complete absence of any flag indicating Ulster or “Scots-Irish” ancestry.

The little circular “Before We Were White” logo indicates lines with “Melungeon” or what I call “Old Mix American” people – meaning people of non-Northern or Central European background:

Indigenous American, sub-Saharan African, Malagasi, South Asian Indian, North African, Spanish, Portuguese, Sephardic or Ashkenazi Jewish, Romani, and others.

The fact that J. D. Vance is not “Scots-Irish”, and has innumerable “non-white” ancestors is not important in and of itself.

What matters profoundly is the attempt by Vance and the GOP to rewrite history in an effort to make it match a White Christian Nationalist ideology.

Whether Vance or Trump believe this stuff is beside the point.

They will use it to mobilise a section of the American people large enough to bring down democracy.


#jdvance #fakehillbilly

Whither the USA?

Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty in the 1982 film Bladerunner

Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty in the 1982 film Bladerunner


Writing the day after a young man attempted to shoot Donald Trump in the head, one question comes to mind.

Whither the USA?

Do decent Americans appreciate the gravity of the current political situation?

The rabble have a “blood martyr” now.

The sheer power of Christian nationalist ideology to make people blind to any other reality is impossible to overstate.

I escaped my own hyper-evangelical family over 40 years ago, yet even today sometimes find myself reading the news through a lens borrowed from The Book of Revelation – a text written by an unknown man on a Mediterranean island sixty some odd years after the death of Jesus.  If a secular-minded student of history can find it hard to escape his childhood indoctrination with the pseudo-mystic prophecies and ravings of a Jewish convert to Christ worship from 2,000 years ago – with its visions of serpents, and beasts, and seven-headed dragons – then what can we expect from people who buy this stuff wholesale?

I had my own vision a few years back of creating a website and podcast for people interested in a truthful telling of American history.

To borrow a quote from one of my favorite films, I fear that anything written or spoken by good and honest people today will end up lost, “like tears in rain“.

Not looking to be an overtly political writer.  But what part of existence is not “political”?  Just looking for some hope here.

What are all the good people doing in preparation for what this November is likely to bring?

Feeling Blue on Boggy Creek

Drive-in movie

Drive-in movie


They say there are only six basic building blocks or themes behind every story ever told.

Some storytellers know this, others don’t.  The ones who realise this usually try harder to bring something new or surprising to the table.

When it’s done cleverly, like in the Coen Brothers retelling of a 2,500 year-old story by Homer in “O Brother Where Art Thou?”, it can be great.

Unfortunately, Hollywood seems to be giving-up on any artistry in its recycling of the same ancient stories, hoping that CGI and franchise familiarity will be enough to keep the money train on the rails.

Virtually every single film in the Marvel Universe is a bad version of the early medieval classic “Beowulf“, which itself betrays elements of even more ancient traditions.  Even “European” folk tales like Cinderella have roots far, far deeper than many imagine, having often arrived in Europe via the various Silk Roads from the east.

I was feeling nearly as old as Beowulf this week when I realised that it is five years since the abysmal THIRD iteration of “Charlie’s Angels“, over twenty years since the second, and just short of half a century since the original TV series with Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, and Jaclyn Smith – a show which made a fortune for Wella Balsam shampoo, red swimsuit manufacturers, and hairdressers skilled in the “feather cut”.

It’s also 25 years since “The Blair Witch Project” was widely thought to be reinventing the horror film genre with its faux documentary approach.

But of course this style of film-making had already been done way back in 1972, with the drive-in movie cult classic “The Legend of Boggy Creek“, which centered around the search for a Bigfoot-type creature near a small town called Fouke in the swamplands of southwest Arkansas…


Director Charles B. Pierce channelled Truman Capote‘s documentary writing style from “In Cold Blood” (about real monsters among us) into a B movie about barely-glimpsed, maybe? real monsters hiding around us.

The wider cultural impact of this film on conservative America is hard to overstate, mainly because there has always been a tension at the heart of America’s relation with wilderness – poised between fear, wonder, and exploitation.

The story trope of hairy wild men is ancient and universal, but particularly potent in a nation so new to its colonisers that it was possible for newcomers to believe that almost anything might be lurking beyond the next ridge, hidden in the undergrowth of a dark ravine, or skulking at the back of a hidden cave.

North of the swamps around Fouke and Boggy Creek lie the Ozark Mountains of Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas, which are in a way the westernmost extension of southern Appalachia.

Most people forget that when the slaveholder and frontiersman Daniel Boone pushed through the Cumberland Gap in 1775 – making way for a torrent of settlers and precipitating disaster for indigenous peoples – he himself never settled-down until reaching Missouri.

Thousands of Kentuckians and Tennesseans would do likewise, with many eventually settling in the Ozark Mountains.

We should not picture Missouri or Arkansas as trackless wildernesses at that time, however often Americans claim to have “tamed” the west.

These lands were certainly wild by today’s standards, but they had already been long settled by indigenous tribes, the French, and then for a while, Spanish peoples. There are still a few people alive today around Old Mines, MO. who speak the so-called “Paw-Paw French” dialect brought there during the 1600s from French Canada.

And these were not just a few hunters and trappers and traders. There were actual towns like Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Fort de Chartres, Saint Philippe, and Prairie du Rocher (all on the east side of the Mississippi River in present-day Illinois), with Ste. Genevieve on the west side of the Mississippi River in present-day Missouri.

Indeed, the very word “Ozarks” probably derives from the French “aux Arcs“, which is short for “aux Arcansas“, meaning “at the place of the Arkansas” – the Arkansas being the French name given to the indigenous Quapaw people.

Part of the reason many Appalachians chose to settle the Ozark Mountains is exactly because the best arable bottom land along along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers was already taken – long before the first English speakers arrived.

But there is another reason so many Appalachians sought out the backwoods of the Ozark Mountains…

Anyone who has followed this blog and podcast for a while will know by now that the most remote parts of Southern Appalachia were settled by multi-ethnic peoples trying to outrun the color caste system in states back east.  Because mountain land is hard to farm and difficult to access, it had two things going for it as regards mixed-ethnic underclass communities.  One, it was cheap (and in many cases free) to those wlling to squat it.  Two, with the law scarce on the ground, mountains offered a sort of refuge for people hoping to just be left alone with their own people.

So just as happened in Western Virginia, Eastern Tennessee and Kentucky during the late 1700s, Arkansas and Southern Missouri became destinations for displaced indigenous and mixed-ethnic peoples during the early 1800s.

Branches of Melungeon families like the Collinses migrated to the Ozarks during this time.

In fact, so many mixed communities ended-up in this region that they gave their names to landmarks like Portuguese Point, overlooking the Gasconade River.

Regular listeners to our podcast will already know how “Portuguese” had become a complex signifier for various “not quite white” people in early colonial America.

Those willing to do some serious digging will discover that many Ozark people descend from Smiths, Scotts, Harmons, Shumates, Oxendines, Benenhaleys and other families with Jewish, Romani, Lenape, Catawba, African, and even Arab ancestors.

Put it all together – remote mountain places, bears and wild cats, people with unfamiliar customs and of unusual appearance, people with a desire to avoid mainstream society – and it’s little wonder that embellished tales of hairy wild men have existed in the Ozarks region for generations.

Long before “The Legend of Boggy Creek“, there was the “Blue Man” of Spring Creek, in Douglas County, Mo., for example.  Here is an excerpt from The Springfield Republican in 1915:

“…Douglas County farmers were searching for the ‘Blue Man of Spring Creek’ who was seen after an absence of four years. The Blue Man was…first seen in 1865 and described as ‘unmistakeably human, though resembling a vicious animal…with long black hair’ covering his ‘blueish black skin’. The first recent sighting was six weeks prior, when Oc Collins, who was said to have taken part in a raid of the ‘Blue Man’s’ den four years earlier, lost two lambs and came upon their pelts in a hollow two miles from his house. Since then, others had seen him, noting that his hair was no longer black, but gray, and that he was not as robust as when first seen in 1865…”

Now we might be inclined to laugh, and to wonder if these Ozark mountain folks had been overindulging in their own product while minding their stills in the woods.

But here’s the thing.  There were mixed-ethnic families in Southern Appalachia since the late 1700s who carried a recessive gene which was expressed whenever a male and female carrier of the gene had children.

This recessive gene caused a blood condition known as methemoglobinemia.  The main visible symptom of this blood disorder?  Blue skin.

The idea of a blue-skinned descendant of Appalachian settlers of the Ozarks of southern Missouri surviving as a livestock-robbing, shunned backwoods hermit is profoundly depressing, infinitely sad, and terrifying at the same time.

Mainly because it is a far more plausible explanation for the surviving “Blue Man” folklore.

The folk stories we invent in order to varnish a dark reality are always the scariest.  Look up the historical theories behind fairy tales like The Pied Piper, and shudder…


This has been a long post, so we’ll circle back around to pop culture’s habit of repeating itself with fluff like Charlie’s Angels.

Or to be more precise, let’s forget the actual show, and look at someone involved in the show.

Jaclyn Smith, who played “Kelly Garrett” in the original Charlie’s Angels TV show, actually got her first break as an actress in Charles B. Pierce‘s follow-up to “The Legend of Boggy Creek” – a film called “Bootleggers“, set in the Ozark Mountains.

Jaclyn Smith‘s father was the son of recent Russian Jewish immigrants.

And Wikipedia, as usual when actual research is lacking, notes Jaclyn Smith‘s mother as having Scottish, Welsh, Irish, and English ancestry – without citing a source.

Jaclyn Smith actually does (unusually for most Americans), have some “posh” English ancestry going back to the slaveholding Farrars of colonial Virginia. And some apparently Scottish “Urquhart” ancestors.

But for some reason, as is so common again and again and again in American history, her maternal links to descendants of pirates and privateers, and to what appear (on the basis od DNA) to be colonial era German or German-Jewish “Hartsfield” or “Hartzfeld” slaveholders, receives nary a mention.

They say there are only six basic building blocks or themes behind every story ever told.

But the biggest thing behind most stories, is the story we are trying to hide.

#history #legends #movies






Baguettes and Baloney

French peasant family, 18th century

French peasant family, 18th century


I’ve been thinking about the extreme right’s current obsession with “The Great Replacement”, and their deep interest in the preservation of a “white European race”…

Even if a person could demonstrate that ALL of their ancestors came from Central or Northern Europe, this still would not mean that they are in any sense “racially pure”.

Let’s take a look at French people to explain why…




What is a French person?

The largest “ethnic group” in the modern state of France is the group of people who speak the Central/Northern dialect of a language which only came into being over the course of many centuries – through migration, invasion, and immigration.

The oldest attested ethnic group in France were the Gauls, who spoke a Celtic language. The conquering of Gaul by the Romans under Julius Caesar in 50 BCE saw the development of a Gallo-Roman society over the subsequent four centuries. In other words, the Romans settled their new frontier with people from all over the Roman Empire, which stretched from the Middle East to NW Europe to North Africa.

It is worth mentioning here that Iraqi soldiers in the Roman army were scribbling graffiti on walls in Scotland nearly 2,000 years ago, and the Mediterranean city of Marseille (Massalia) had been founded by Greek traders 600 years before the time of Julius Caesar.

In what would only be called “France” many centuries later, the collapse of the Western Roman Empire during the 5th century CE saw a mass inward migration of Germanic tribes from the east such as the Burgundians, Franks, Suebi, and Visigoths, with a late influx of Vikings during the Middle Ages.

Before the age of the printing press began to unify it linguistically, France was a patchwork of ethnic groups speaking innumerable languages, dialects, and mixed sub-dialects.  Evidence of this can be seen in the many languages and regional dialects still spoken today:

Alsatian (Alemannic) [Germanic]
Auvergnat (Occitan) [Romance]
Basque (Palaeo-European) [no known linguistic relatives]
Breton (Brittonic) [insular P-Celtic]
Catalan [Western Romance]
Corsican (Italo-Dalmatian) [Romance]
Franco-Provencal [Romance]
French Flemish (Dutch dialect) [Germanic]
French (official langues d’oïl) [Romance]
Gascon (Occitan) [Romance]
Lorraine Franconian (West Central German) [Germanic]
Norman (langues d’oïl) [Romance]
Occitan (langues d’oc) [Romance]
Picard (langues d’oïl) [Romance]
Poitevin-Saintongeais (langues d’oïl) [Romance] one of the main groups ancestral to Acadians/Louisiana Cajuns

Because the majority of the “French” Huguenots (French Protestants) who ended-up in North America were from the south and southwestern parts of France, this means many of them almost certainly spoke a language other than “Standard French”.

All of this perfectly encapsulates why ethnic or “racial” purity was an illusion long, long before the concept began to take root in places like Anglo-America. A “French Huguenot” arriving in Virginia during the 1600s might be lighter-skinned than most Africans, but nonetheless could be a mixture of genes from anywhere across the Northern European, Eastern European, and Mediterranean world – including the Roman Middle East and North Africa.

When people used the words “England” or “France” during the 1600s and 1700s, they were describing a POLITICAL identity which was only partly related to the ethnic or cultural identities on the ground at the time.




Those who romanticise the Vikings would do well to read books like “The Viking Way” by Professor Neil Price.  The nature of Scandinavian magic and religious practice during the Middle Ages is far too gruesome and depraved to include here.  Those inclined to say we should not measure past societies by today’s standards?

Contemporary Arab travellers among the Vikings were utterly horrified by the things they saw in a so-called “Christian” society.

And “white” Christian nationalists who see themselves as the descendants of Frankish crusaders?  They are living in cuckoo land.

Warlords and later European royalty are almost never the class of people whose descendants ended-up on ships to America.

The origins of many more Americans are to be found among religious extremists, indentured servants, smugglers, speculators, and transported criminals (including beggars, vagrants, and prostitutes).  Almost all underclass people intermixed at some stage with African and indigenous American peoples.

White supremacy is not only wicked.  It’s downright ill-informed and stupid.


The Sons of Sweyn Forkbeard

Number of ancestors per generation

Number of ancestors per generation


As expected, this blog and podcast is beginning to be noticed by “white” Christian nationalist ideologues.

I find myself conflicted trying to decide whether the people commenting from this ideological position should be ignored or blocked.

It is beyond laughable that anyone with deep roots in colonial-era America would use iconography associated with medieval Germanic Europe as their “identity” – Scandinavian runes, Viking imagery, tattoos of St. George crosses or pathetic weightlifter-inflected fantasy artwork depicting Frankish crusaders, Saxon warlords, and Norman knights.

The National Socialists of 1920s and 1930s Germany loved this sort of thing, with composers like Richard Wagner being much admired for offering an artistic pseudo-backstory of ancient Germania and Scandinavia – full of “pure”, but utterly imaginary ancient folk legends.

Explaining the difference between the fake concept of “race”, and population groups, nationality, ethnicity, tribalism, and culture is so complicated that I started this podcast.

In order to claim an “ethnicity”, surely a person should be able to demonstrate one or more things:

Immersion within a specific ethnic community’s culture, or at the very least, a majority of ancestors from that claimed ethnic group.


I’ve shared a table above showing the number of ancestors all of us have, as we travel back through the generations.

Can any American seriously claim that half, or even a quarter, of their 8,192 eleventh great-grandparents came from one single culture or ethnic community?


Before We Were White will offer this public challenge to any self-identified American “white Christian nationalist” who believes they are ethnically or “racially” pure:

If at least half of your family has been in America since colonial times (pre-Revolution), prove that none of those ancestors were people of color.

You will not be able to do it.

You’re not who you wish you were.  And you’re certainly not a Norse or Saxon warrior.

You’re an American with serious masculinity, educational and cultural issues.

The Racist Roots of American Gun Culture

Live shooter drill in US school

Live shooter drill in US school


The <activist> Supreme Court of the USA handed down a decision a few weeks ago.

In their infinite wisdom, they have decided that a ban on “bump stocks” should not stand.  That every American should have the “right” to make their semi-automatic weapon function like a fully automatic weapon.

How many mass shootings in the USA over the past couple of years?

You’ve lost count, right?.

We have the endless, useless, obviously futile and utterly hollow “thoughts and prayers”.

We have the mostly boy-men who live in such fear of “gun emasculation”, that they clutch their guns like a child with a security blanket.

We have the now regular and sickening suggestion that only more guns can fix this very stupid, very American problem.

Guns in our handbags.  Guns in our restaurants.  Armed guards in elementary schools.  Guns on the beach.  Guns on the bedside table.  Guns, guns, guns.

We have semi-automatic assault-type high velocity weapons and ammunition in the hands of barely post-pubescent spotty kids with little more than an internet education – and usually some serious self-esteem issues.

And now, having exhausted every flimsy and disingenuous argument in their Book of the Gun, we have ideologue politicians pivoting toward a “new solution” which they hope will allow them and their indoctrinated constituents to hold on to their security blankets.

They wheel it out now at every photo-op and vox-pop.

“Gun violence is a mental health issue”.

And for once, they are on to something – just not in the way they would like to imagine.




A large segment of American society IS suffering from mental health issues.

Issues created by centuries of barefaced lies about the American project.

Issues created by books, newspapers, cinema and TV spreading an unceasing, vomitous stream of violence, untruths and fairy tales for “entertainment” and filthy dollars – for decades, for centuries.

Issues created by land theft, slavery, economic injustice and race violence.

Issues created by corporate gaslighting, with politicians and virtual oligarchs programming the electorate to believe that unsustainable environmental rape and pillage is “progress” and necessary for “creating jobs”.

Issues created by the accumulation of obscene wealth for a few – through encouraging tobacco, alcohol, gun, opioid, and social media addiction – all while blaming the social fall-out on the “moral shortcomings” of their often impoverished <paying> customers.

One-third of the American electorate gets its “news” from a corporation owned by a shrivelled husk of a man who was able to write-off a nearly billion dollar lawsuit recently – all because he makes MORE money telling gun-hugging, conspiracy-embracing Americans whatever they want to hear.

And it seems the only thing they don’t ever want to hear is The Truth.




I always find the “guns are needed for protection against a tyrannical government” thing regularly put forward by gun lovers a bit hilarious (if the side effects of mass gun ownership weren’t so deadly serious).

The USA military machine, with tanks, drones, warplanes and sea support, RPGs, chemical and biological weapons, air-to-surface missiles, internet control and spyware intelligence, etc., just might not be too worried about a few overweight local “militia” running around the woods and suburbs with semi-automatic pseudo assault rifles.

Besides, wars are won by controlling communications, and supply lines of ammunition, energy, and food.

But that is all by-the-by.

Every serious historian knows that the promise in the 2nd Amendment not to disarm “well-regulated militias” was for two reasons:

1) Because the government was too broke to pay for a standing army at the time.  Local militias – often formed to fight Indians who resisted colonial encroachment – were guaranteed “rights” to operate, as these same militias could be called-upon to function as a rapid-response non-taxpayer funded army.

2) Because states with large numbers of slaves would have rebelled at least 80 years BEFORE the Civil War over this issue.  Why?  Because they absolutely needed militias with guns and dogs – for hunting-down escaped slaves, for preventing slave uprisings, and for putting-down slave rebellions.  The 2nd Amendment was designed to placate these slaveholders and ethnic cleansers.


Never in their wildest dreams did the framers of the US Constitution envisage a society of ill-informed dorks wandering the streets of every town with semi-automatic high velocity firearms.




But away from the ivory towers of the corporatocracy, the NRA, and sundry ill-educated wingnuts, we can read things like the following in our newspapers after a mass-shooting atrocity like the one in Allen, Texas in May 2023:

“The first girl I walked up to was crouched down covering her head in the bushes,” he recalled. “So I felt for a pulse, pulled her head to the side, and she had no face.”

A child.  A child, for goodness’ sake.

Shortly after, the local police department tried to discredit the witness testimony of people on the scene. For politics. For ideology. Because personal testimony has the power to change minds.

Also shortly after, the despicable, wretched and vile Republican governor of Texas, Gregg Abbott, told Fox News Sunday that his “plan” for putting an end to such carnage was to target the possession of weapons by criminals and “deal with a rising mental health crisis”.

“People want a quick solution,” he said. “The long term solution here is to address the mental health issue.”

Yes, there is a serious mental health issue here.  And it’s not confined to the sick people who shoot children.

Shame on the mentally and morally bankrupt majority of the Supreme Court of the USA.

#beforewewerewhite #history #gunviolence

Dam(n) it!



Tennessee Valley Authority relocation of Bunch family of Lone Mountain, TN


This is probably a perfect encapsulation of the political complexities and divisions at the heart of US society.

As early as 1921, 94% of the electricity distributed in the USA was controlled by privately-owned holding companies.

In 1920, wealthy automobile manufacturer Henry Ford had attempted to implement a plan to dam the Tennessee River at Muscle Shoals in NW Alabama for electricity generation (and monopolistic mega profits).

Senator George Norris of Nebraska introduced a bill to congress to block the plan, believing that private-owned businesses should not be trusted with vast infrastructural projects affecting hundreds of thousands of people.

Although the bill was passed, it was vetoed by the president of the day, Herbert Hoover.

It might be correct to see this as the first great stand-off between Big Business American Capitalism and those who believed that a nation’s natural resources should belong to the nation’s citizens, and should be exploited for the benefit of the many, rather than the few.

By 1934, the USA was five years into the grip of the Great Depression, and a privately-owned version of the Muscle Shoals dam project was dead in the water (no pun intended).

As part of his New Deal for lifting many Americans out of poverty, Franklin Delano Roosevelt constituted the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which would build a series of dams for hydroelectricity generation, but they would be owned by the state – not private companies with a history of gouging consumers.

Outside of Black and indigenous communities, no one was poorer, or suffering more, than the rural people of Southern Appalachia during the 1930s.

Much mountain land was exhausted due to poor farming practices.  Produce prices were at rock bottom.  Average income was about $639 per year (less than $12,000 in today’s money).  Families surviving on less than $200 a year was not uncommon.

The Roosevelt administration reasoned that in the face of such abject poverty, the public revenue generated, and the new jobs created by the TVA in nearby towns, would more than compensate poor mountain folks for the loss of their land under water.  And in many cases, the government was right.  Jobs WERE created, and better farming practices were introduced.  But there was one little fly in the ointment.  Free choice.

Using the legal principle of “eminent domain“, small farmers who had farmed, hunted, danced, and raised families in these hills for upwards of 150 years were forced to sell-up, often for prices below market value.

All of this is history in the public realm.  The one part of this story never told in history books or scholarly articles is the fact that many, many of the impoverished people of these regions were poor in the first place because they were the mixed-ethnic outcasts of colonial society.  The very reason they had sought out the most remote hills and hollers was to find a measure of freedom – freedom from bonded servitude, freedom from wage slavery, freedom from race laws and bigotry.

Just freedom.  Or the closest thing to freedom available in this world.

I’ve heard it said that Australian aborigines removed from their ancestral lands in times past would often begin to slowly “fade away”, literally dying from a loss of freedom and connection to the land.

Something similar must have surely befallen the over 125,000 Southern Appalachians who were forced to say goodbye to their farms and mountain communities between the 1930s and 1950s.

Many well-educated people today try to understand or explain why some of the American underclasses often vote “against their own interests”.

On the one hand, there is a government which had enough power to take away the only things they ever had – a home, a community, pride, and self-reliance.

Anyone who comes along blaming “Big Government” for their trans-generational troubles is likely to get a hearing.  Anyone who speaks of bootstraps and hating a hand-out is also speaking the right language.

Unfortunately for the sons and daughters of Appalachia, the people “speaking their language” today are the same b**tards who once controlled 94% of the electricity supply in America.

For some sections of America, there’s no winning.

#tennesseevalleyauthority #appalachia #bigbusiness #beforewewerewhite

Those Damn Hippies

The Farm Band, circa 1978 [Photo David Frohman]

Many believe the 20th century “norm” among American men of being clean-shaven with short hair was mostly due to grooming standards set by the military during two world wars.

1) An effective seal for gas masks cannot be achieved with a bearded face.

2) The fitting of steel helmets was made easier by requiring recruits to keep their hair short-cropped or nearly shaven.

3) Short hair and the absence of beards and moustaches was believed to be more hygenic, offering less scope for lice infestations.

4) Officers prefer uniformity among rank and file soldiers. Distinctive hair, beard & moustache styles are construed as a sign of individuality which could be a precursor to insubordination.

So between 1914 and the 1940s, short hair and a clean-shaven face became the look of “brave soldiers”, and by extension, “manliness”.

The flamboyant pompadours and ducktails of the 1950s were seen by conformists as the preserve of flippant and self-regarding peacocks, while the long hair of the 1960s was seen by most sections of mainstream society as an out and out challenge to the status quo, and a symbol of youth rebellion and drug culture.

Before the age of gas masks and steel helmets, long hair was seen as “dashing”, especially among cavalrymen during the American Civil War and subsequent Indian Wars in the so-called “Wild West”.  George Armstrong Custer was noted by contemporaries as being particularly vain about his golden tresses.

We are truly a product of our times.


#history #hippies #fashion #war #beforewewerewhite



This post is going slightly off-piste for a sociology and history website, so my apologies.

It is now utterly clear that social media platforms throttle the visibility of users/writers who post things not matching a certain “preferred” model.

Mentioning certain political “situations”, such as the attempted ethnic-cleansing taking place in Gaza, will result in a death-vise throttling.

Posts considered too long to keep a modern audience scrolling endlessly (or mindlessly?) will also result in limited visibility.

Posts matching the “preferred model” should be one or two sentences long at most, with a photo/image included.

Even better, posts should be short (very short) video clips, showing things like “They rescued this injured kangaroo. One year later they released it back into the wild. Ten years later they check on it and it gives them a hug.”

It is difficult enough trying to find an audience for awkward and complex historical truths.

But just this month, Facebook/Meta sent me an email informing me that everything I have written and shared over the past ten years on their platform will be used to “train” their upcoming AI “product”.

I am told that I am free to object, but this objection will not necessarily mean that my objection will be respected.

I am mindsick, heartsick, and soulsick with this headlong rush into oblivion, in which a few technocrats seek to further enrich themselves and concentrate unimaginable power in the hands of a tiny technocracy.

Power made off the backs of the real blood and flesh human beings who actually CREATE.

This graphic was made for all of the fellow creative souls out there.  If any of the points made resonate with you, please share.

For my part, I’ll be girding my loins for war.

#ai #theludditeswereright #handsoffmywriting #handsoffmyresearch