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Ron DeSantis Was Born In 1978, But Neil Young Wrote A Song About Him 8 Years Earlier



Southern man, better keep your head

Don't forget what your good book said

Southern change gonna come at last

Now your crosses are burning fast

Southern man

I saw cotton and I saw black

Tall white mansions and little shacks

Southern man, when will you pay them back?

I heard screamin' and bullwhips cracking

How long? How long? How?

Southern man, better keep your head

Don't forget what your good book said

Southern change gonna come at last

Now your crosses are burning fast

Southern man

Lily Belle, your hair is golden brown

I've seen your black man comin' round

Swear by God I'm gonna cut him down

I heard screamin' and bullwhips cracking

How long? How long? How?

-Neil Young


When Neil released “Southern Man” I was far away, living in Goa and not in communication with anyone who could tell me about it. The world was a very different place then. Many years later, long after I had come to love that song, I wound up as president of Reprise, his record label. When I went to work there, I was curious if the song had hurt his reputation, record sales or ticket sales in the South. I never found any evidence it had, even though there was some controversy around it when After the Goldrush was released. Even in the South, at least for his target audience, criticizing the history of racial discrimination and violence towards Black people in the region was a popular stand. Obviously there were some racists and rednecks who were profoundly offended. Like Lynyrd Skynyrd before God killed them. In their classic "Sweet Home Alabama," released in 1974, they directly referenced "Southern Man"— "Well, I heard Mr. Young sing about her / Well, I heard ol' Neil put her down / Well, I hope Neil Young will remember / A Southern man don't need him around, anyhow." This created a kind of musical feud between Neil and Skynyrd, although they later became friends and Neil has spoken positively about them.

Some of my colleagues at Reprise and in Neil’s camp have told me that the controversy surrounding the and his response to it probably played a role in enhancing his reputation as an important countercultural figure and a voice of protest. The song solidified his status as a courageous musician unafraid to address challenging topics.


I thought of "Southern Man" today— and embedded it at the bottom of this post— because Patrick Braxton was elected mayor of Newbern, Alabama, a town that is 85% Black, and then locked out of the Town Hall by the previous (white) mayor—Haywood “Woody” Stokes III— and his administration, who basically declared that he's still the mayor. Aaliyah Wright reported that “Decades removed from a seemingly Jim Crow South, white people continue to thwart Black political progress by refusing to allow them to govern themselves or participate in the country’s democracy, several residents told Capital B. While litigation may take months or years to resolve, Braxton and community members are working to organize voter education, registration, and transportation ahead of the 2024 general election.” And Newbern isn’t the only town where that exact same scenario has played out. Greenwood, Mississippi and Camilla, Georgia are two others.



And that brings us to one of the worst racists of the South in the 21st Century: Meatball Ron DeSantis with his anti-woke form of racism. Yesterday, the Florida Phoenix reported that “Students at Florida public schools will now learn that Black people benefitted from slavery because it taught them skills. This change is part of the African American history standards the State Board of Education approved at a Wednesday meeting. The description of slavery as beneficial is not the only grievance parents, teachers, education advocates and politicians had with the new standards. People speaking at the Wednesday meeting generally called out the diluting and omissions of history. For example, instruction at the elementary school level is largely limited to identifying famous Black people, and high school teachers will talk about the “acts of violence perpetrated by African Americans” at the 1920 Ocoee Massacre, in which a white mob killed at least 30 Black people.


A 1994 Florida statute requires schools to teach African American history, but Gov. DeSantis has been chipping away at the legacy of the law. Last year, the Legislature passed HB 7, which restricted certain conversations about race and gender in schools and workplaces. Regarding race-related discussions in schools, the law says that students must not feel guilt over past actions of people of the same race.
At the beginning of the year, the governor’s rejection of the New York-based College Board’s AP African American History pilot course amassed nationwide backlash for trying to whitewash history.
“To be discussing African American history in this moment, with no one president who has felt the pain of the infliction of harm on African Americans. It’s overtly problematic,” said former state politician Dwight Bullard, pointing at the non-Black members of the board.
“Part of the reason the ’94 statute exists is because the state tried to cover up the Rosewood massacre. So, by the very admission of the state, the reason that we need a stronger statute that covers African American history, a broader statute is because of the necessity or the failures of your predecessors. So, I simply ask that you table this amendment until those closest to the pain have access to the power.”

The Tallahassee Democrat reported that The Florida Board of Education approved a new curriculum for African American history on Wednesday, but not without pushback. After more than an hour of public comment, with a majority of speakers opposed, the board voted unanimously to approve the social studies standards for African American history for kindergarten through 12th grades. Opponents say the curriculum leaves out Florida’s role in slavery and the oppression of African Americans, victim blames Black communities and uses outdated language.”


Think Lynyrd Skynyrd would write a song about that? What about Kid Rock, Hank Williams Jr., Charlie Daniels, Ted Nugent (who I'm proud to say I dropped as an artist as soon as I got to Reprise), or Marshall Tucker? I don't think so... that had their own subjects they wanted to cover in their songs.



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