Secession Talk Is For Losers

It was a truly relaxing long weekend with a hard-to-commercialize holiday until the nuttiest peanut in the GOP candy bar got on Twitter to call for a “national divorce.”

Them’s the wingnut words for secession. As in, the catalyst of the Civil War.

Now, as the resident Civil War nerd over here at Betches, I have to say that I am feeling two seemingly contradictory things right now:

  1. Unsurprised

  2. Alarmed

The first is easy enough: We’ve all experienced the loser who wants to stop the game, take the ball, and go home. Marjorie Taylor Greene and her GOP colleagues can’t win on their deeply unpopular platform, which is why they’re trying to hold the debt ceiling hostage rather than presenting a budget. Their cultural goals are failing with wide swathes of the population, including a young electorate soon to come of voting age and basically everywhere outside of unified GOP control (and there’s still a ton of active resistance there too). And as much as their leaders complain about being imposed upon, they are economically, technologically, culturally, and structurally incapable of surviving on their own. Just like their ideological forebearers. 

Which is why I’m also deeply alarmed.

Because this level of self-delusion mixed with sore loser syndrome is a huge reason why we had a bad breakup barely 80 years into our national history. And if it’s happening again, it could lead to some pretty gnarly consequences.

But wait, Kaitlin… Haven’t you and every other legitimate source of reflection on U.S. history taught us that slavery was the cause of the Civil War? The Thirteenth Amendment has its problems, but chattel slavery is over. How can a political system without slavery be in as much danger as one with it?

This is all very astute and I’m so glad that my incoherent rants on the Civil War made some kind of sense. But the problem isn’t just what motivated Confederates to rebel, but how they broke the system to do so. 

See, a ton of the U.S. political system was designed to maintain slavery. The distortion of the Senate? The Three-Fifths clause? The balance of the Supreme Court? All of it was developed to give smaller white populations punching power way above their weight class. Sure, some of this was for Connecticut and Rhode Island. But overwhelmingly it was done for slave states: highly agricultural, less dense, and dominated by a “self-made” aristocracy atop the ownership and labor of enslaved Black people.

All of this distortion allowed states that shouldn’t have been able to dominate the conversation to hold disproportionate influence over the country. Like… wildly disproportionate. In 1860, there were approximately 19 million free Americans in the North, and a little bit more than 8 million white Southerners — and the South had a majority on the Supreme Court, domination in the Senate (through a Bad Democratic majority), and a strong faction in the plurality-led House (which was the product of the second longest Speaker vote in history, if the parallels aren’t eerie enough).

But despite all of this rigging in their favor, numbers don’t lie. They tried book banning, stifling debate, issuing extremely biased rulings with obviously terrible logic, sabotaging the opposition, and even launching death threats, coups, and successful mob violence. Yet they still couldn’t stop democracy from functioning. In fact, the more zealous they became over their position, the more they converted an ambivalent people against them.

Stop me if this is sounding familiar…

The last ditch effort to preserve slavery over democracy was secession. The South decided it simply had to form its own country if this one would disagree with them. And now you get why I’m alarmed. Because I deliberately left that above paragraph vague. Am I describing the Southern Democrats of the 1850s, or the Republican Party of the 2020s?


Of course, the Union is a much more diverse, integrated, and messy confederation of states than it was in 1860. There are millions of citizens who disagree with these views but built homes in places with extremely shitty political leadership. They deserve a functional government too, goddamn it. A “national breakup” wouldn’t be siphoning off the suckers as much as condemning millions to unbearable cruelty. We fought a war to ostensibly stop that shit from happening again.

Secession talk is the last refuge of losers in the court of democracy. It’s what you threaten when you don’t have the votes, decency, or arguments to win fair and square. The last time we heard this nonsense, it left the country in ruins and our systems in disarray. But it also represented one of the greatest and undeniable beatdowns of delusional reactionary traitorous losers the modern world had ever witnessed. Maybe MTG and her supporters just need a refresher course on how it turned out.

It is Black History Month, after all.

Follow Kaitlin Byrd on Twitter here and on Instagram here.

I’m Gonna Need To Talk To The Manager Of This Black History Month

We are halfway through Black History Month (BHM), and I feel like asking my white friends to lend me their Karen energy because I’d like to speak to the manager about a return.

I ordered this BHM as a celebration of Black contributions to the culture, arts, politics, and function of the United States and the North American continent. Instead, we’ve received the marginalization, erasure, and disrespect of those very same achievements. I’m not saying that we should get a bonus month to make up for it. But doesn’t it feel like somebody (white) should be fired for this?

At the lighter but most blatant end of the scale, let’s talk about the epic snub of Beyoncé for Artist of the Year at the Grammys. Winner Harry Styles topped off the shit sundae of this embarrassment with a cherry of oblivious self-regard when he said that “people like me” don’t usually receive these awards. Sir, you are a white cishetero man, and – all offense intended – you were three years old when Beyoncé signed her first recording deal. 

It was outrageous. It was demeaning. It was flagrantly offensive to ignore a masterpiece of an album that revived and modernized a musical style created and defined by marginalized people after a quarter-century career of absolute bangers every. single. time. 

It’s not just that I am a Beyoncé stan (though what else could any of us be). It’s the refusal to recognize how powerful, impactful, and incredible she is as an artist because she’s a Black woman buoyed first and foremost by Black women.

But, ok, that’s only culturally disrespectful. So Beyoncé doesn’t get a justly deserved award that implies she will never be good enough to win over the white establishment. She’s still selling out stadiums and taking our rent money and securing a meaningful legacy through her art. It’s not enough to throw the whole month away, surely? It’s not like Black history is being actively erased, right?

Oh, wait.

In Florida, weeping pustule and governor Ron DeSantis has effectively suppressed the teaching of Black history in his state via the hellacious Stop WOKE Act — with repercussions across the country.

In Florida, teachers are terrified to share even basic facts about the centuries’ long history of racial oppression in this country, whether it’s the basics of chattel slavery or the widely documented reality of segregation. But leaving the state’s children embarrassingly uneducated wasn’t enough for DeSantis, who coordinated with the College Board to eviscerate the proposed AP African-American History course that will be offered to students across the county. Gone are the Black queer theorists and thinkers; gone are the titans of racial self-reflection. Instead, I guess Black students can learn that their ancestors were happy and noble under oppressive regimes — if they’re even mentioned at all.

There is something deeply perverse in preventing Black speakers and scholars from telling our own stories in our own words during the time specifically set aside for that purpose. It is the only four weeks on the calendar when Black people are given permission to take up space in a society that usually demands our invisibility. That temporary presence in the discourse — on our terms, in our voices — has been instrumental in creating the progress that empowered Black people to fight for abolition, to endure the horrors of Reconstruction and Jim Crow, to stand up for our civil rights, and to reshape U.S. politics by being the driving force behind the first Black man to hold the presidency. Losing access to our moment to speak up and speak out isn’t just going to quash what Black people have already done, but what we still aspire to.

It’s here where I have to get into the heaviest and most heartbreaking event to mark this month: the funeral of Tyre Nichols.

The darkest parts of Black history – the fear, the uncertainty, the deprivation, the blatant and terrifying disregard of our humanity – is not history. It’s still happening.

As Tyre’s and other new names are added to the painful litany, the importance of Black History Month comes back into focus.  In gathering to memorialize Tyre Nichols – his hopes, his dreams, his kindness, his impact, and all of the people left behind – we are reminded that we still have work to do. And not just Black people. All of us still have work to do to ensure that Black people feel safe and cherished, loved and venerated, respected and free.

That is the Black History Month I asked for: one where we are doing the work of making this nation a better place for Black people — by extension, everyone else. 

So, to be clear, y’all have two weeks to fix this. And if you’re not sure where to begin the dismantling of centuries-old structural racism and pervasive, violent anti-Blackness…. Well, getting Renaissance World Tour tickets for your Black friends isn’t a bad start. (You can always find me @gothamgirlblue, to be clear.)

7 Must-See Black History Month Flicks To Stream Right Now

You marched and protested for Floyd and Taylor and the countless others who came before and after them. You donated. You called. You denounced white supremacists IRL and on social media. You call yourself an ally to Black and brown people and back up that talk with actual action, like cutting off that Karen in your crew or, even better, you’ve got receipts, because you’ve voted for politicians who tout anti-racist platforms. (Dope.) 

OK, alright, you can call yourself woke. 

But you really cannot call yourself woke unless you truly know Black History, my sistrens. Thankfully, there’s plenty to binge-watch and catch up on if you’d like a crash course in the deep-rooted ugliness of what it’s like to be Black in America. While it’d be virtually impossible to include every doc and flick that’s worth watching, this handful is a good start. From the moments the first Black people were stolen from their African homelands to the demolition of Black Wall Street to the civil rights movement to the Black people who are still suffering from this country’s policies of mass incarceration, here are a few titles to start with.

Enslaved (Prime Video)

You’ll follow Samuel L. Jackson around the globe as he retraces the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade from the shores of Gabon to the U.K. to the Florida Keys and more, through the eyes of deep-sea divers in search of six sunken slave ships, the skeletal remains of their shackled human cargo, and relics, to historians who unfurl centuries-old scrolls of petitions to abolish slavery. There’s even an appearance from the late civil rights leader John Lewis, he of “good trouble”, who invited the divers to Washington, D.C., for a face-to-face shortly before his death in July.

Harriet Tubman: They Called Her Moses (Prime Video)

Sure, you can watch the action-packed but much-maligned 2019 box office darling Harriet, or you can get the real deal Holyfield. This documentary traces Harriet’s early days in Maryland to her first journey up the Underground Railroad to Pennsylvania and beyond, again, again, and again in her rescue of an estimated 300 slaves.

The History Channel: In Search of History—Black Wall Street (YouTube)

Once located in the heart of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Black Wall Street was a thriving mecca of more than 300 Black-owned businesses such as movie theatres and doctor’s offices. But that all came to a violent and bitter end after a young white woman’s allegations of being raped by a Black teen sparked a race riot that would leave hundreds of Black people dead and the city leveled. By one estimate, the damages then, in 1921, totaled $2 million, or $50 million today—a massive economic blow to Blacks who endeavored to both build financial stability for themselves and create lasting generational wealth. “Maybe if we talk about it enough, it’ll never be again,” mused one survivor in her testimonial.

I Am Not Your Negro (Netflix)

Before their untimely deaths, what was life like for outspoken civil rights leaders Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers? This doc is based on Remember This House, an unfinished manuscript written by the trio’s pal, essayist James Baldwin, who only managed to pen 30 pages of prose before his own death. But his musings are enough for Samuel L. Jackson, in a voiceover, to string together troubling footage past and present of simmering racial tensions that not only led to Malcolm, Martin, and Medgar’s assassinations, but also illustrate the disturbing racial inequities that remain in America today.

Loving (Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, & more)

Before a history-making 1967 Supreme Court ruling, interracial marriages were not only taboo, but illegal in many places. One couple’s determination changed all that. Loving is based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who had to flee their home in Virginia, one of 20 states that forbade mixed-race unions, for a safe-haven in D.C., and the story of their fight to live and love freely.

Selma (Hulu, YouTube, Prime Video, & more)

The Ava DuVernay-directed Selma depicts civil rights leaders’ and hundreds of Black voters’ history-making march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in protest against the denial of Blacks’ voting rights. White supremacy looms large with plenty of intimidation tactics and brutal beatings, but the throngs persevered, finally reaching Montgomery. The moment became the catalyst for the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a major win for the civil rights movement. What was not a win? This flick’s Oscar snub for Best Picture.

13th (Netflix)

Land of the free? Not quite. In yet another hit from DuVernay, this jaw-dropping documentary unveils the troubling statistics of Black Americans behind bars. The film’s title references the 13th amendment that abolished slavery but provided for incarceration as punishment for a crime. The truth bombs drop from the very start with statistic after sobering statistic. “The United States is home to five percent of the world’s population,” booms Barack Obama’s voiceover, “but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.” And they continue throughout, like the fact that Black people make up 13.4 percent of the American population but 40.2 percent of the prison population.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated with the correct statistic that Black people make up 13.4 percent of the U.S. population.

Images: Focus Features