Try THIS In A Small White Town

Do you think you’re tough? Let’s see you do this

Savannah Worley

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A Black woman with dreads wearing a teal-and-pink floral dress. She has a confident posture — hands on her hips, chest out. She has a smirk on her face. The picture was taken in a light-blue background.
Photo by Leon ellDOT on Unsplash

I was a lot of things in the small, white sundown town in which I was raised, none of which anyone else would dare to be.

I was a Black girl in a small white town. I’ve had white people stare at me as if I was an exotic creature to either treat as a pet or hunt down and kill. During my K-12 years, white teachers would harshly punish me for the same mistakes my white counterparts made. My eighth-grade teacher told me I would be a “welfare queen.” I was seen as a “jezebel,” with white women accusing me of “stealing their man” when I was 8 years old. White men began to catcall me by the age of ten. White men in trucks chased me down, screaming the n-word at me. Townspeople groomed me to be subservient — quiet, thankful, and to enjoy the abuse they inflicted upon me and would never inflict upon “their kind.”

“Black girl” is all they saw on the surface. If they dug any deeper, I would probably be killed.

I was a Black queer girl in a small white town. A very lonely existence. I was lucky in a way because I was never threatened with hell and damnation — my mom didn’t go to church. But because I was a Black girl, I barely had the chance to explore who I was. I was too busy fending off grown white men. I was too busy facing the fact I was already an alien in my own hometown — an “other.” All I could do was look at pictures of Salma Hayek and dream.

I was a Black, queer, heathen girl in a small white town. White people expected me to pray to whatever god to whom they prayed, but I learned it had to be a horrible god to enable them to treat “the others” like me so horribly. They wanted me to pray to him so that I could endure more of their abuse. I said, “No thanks, I’ll just worship nature and the Universe and study witchcraft instead.” I didn’t say that out loud of course — I’d probably be burned at the stake. But I found my own faith. A difficult feat in a small white town.

I want to challenge Jason Aldean and the fans of his racist song, “Try That In A Small Town” to try all THIS in a small white town. Try it, and see if you can survive. See if nobody tries to kill you. See if you don’t try to kill yourself. Try it for a decade and try to escape. You might find escape…

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Savannah Worley

Essayist who writes about social justice, racism, and mental health | she/her | Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/skworley