Pre-October Huddle

1. “All Heart, No Brains” starts tomorrow at 6 p.m. and will run weeknights throughout October, except for the 31st, when I hope to have a special treat for you “Allendale” fans.

2. I’ll be doing a reading from A City of Ghosts over at East Side Story on the 11th at 6, I think? Not sure about the time. I will find out.

3. It appears that “The Wolf’s Bane” aka Project X will indeed be ready for pre-order this month. We are planning a party. I will have more details about that, too.


This Dog

The thing about this dog that kills me every time it happens is that he can be so attentive. I don’t know how many times the Professor would come over and watch me yell at Mrs. Wigglebottom who was off doing whatever the hell she wanted and then help me corral her back into the house.

Sonnyboy sometimes gets the squirrel in him. Don’t get me wrong. And when he’s acting squirrelly, there’s nothing to be done with him. He won’t listen. He won’t calm down. Often when this happens, it means he has to poop. But sometimes it just means he’s being squirrelly.

But most of the time, it does seem like he really likes being around us and likes doing things that make us happy. After our walk this morning, he came in and sat by me, in hopes that I would share some of my banana with him. I ate down to the last bite and then handed it to him. He took it very carefully.

I still think he doesn’t quite trust that these good times can last. When I left on Friday, I could tell he was really stressed by it–he was panting and trying to sneak out of the house with me and just pacing. And then the Butcher said he came home to find the dog had runny poops all in my room. Which, yuck, thanks, but also, didn’t surprise me, because, like I said, he was really stressed. And he has this bone he likes a lot and we keep finding it outside. And I get the impression that he’s either afraid we’re going to start leaving him outside for hours and so he might need a bone to entertain himself or he wants to have it, in case he’s forced to leave.

Ha ha ha ha ha

Oh, you guys, I almost wish the October thing were starting tonight. But no, you have to wait until Wednesday! It’s funny and sad and there’s a buzzard Andrew Jackson and a lot of other weird, surprising things. There is a dog in peril, but he doesn’t know it and no one dies, well, except for a dragon, but he totally has it coming. I just couldn’t stand anything too scary or sad this year, so it’s an adventure instead.

My Thing

I really enjoy reading my stories to people. That’s mainly what I came away from the book festival knowing. I don’t mind being on other kinds of panels but the truth is that no one knows anything about publishing right now. If you want to know who’s full of shit, just look for who’s making declarative statements about who’s the bad guys or who’s doing it right or what. So, I feel weird about saying anything in those kinds of panels other than that everyone here is trying to make their best, educated guess at a time when guesses fall short.

But standing up in front of a crowd and reading them something I wrote? Oh, with my whole heart, I love that. I love the silence and the feeling like we’re all experiencing something together.

It’s good to be reminded of that, since so much of being a published writer is being rejected. Which sucks. But being able to read to people? That is awesome.

The Mid-South Book Festival

So, I went over on Friday and I had the book of the woman who did the first panel with me, Laura Cunningham’s Haunted Memphis, and I started to drive around to as many places in her book as I could, but when I got to the Elmwood Cemetery, I was sunk. It was amazing. I was there for almost two hours when I finally noticed there was an audio tour (it was well-marked, I just was an idiot) and I was like, argh, why didn’t I take the audio tour?!

Then I went to my hotel and got ready for the opening reception. That was down at Berke’s Books and was awesome. I got to talk about ghosts, my friend, Claire, introduced me to everyone, and I had a really lovely talk with a country music DJ about Lefty Frizzell. I also got invited to one party and threatened with being kidnapped off to another party. But I went back to the hotel and slept like the dead.

The Festival itself was at the Botanical Gardens. The weather was beautiful and the surroundings were really lovely. Plus, they had a green room! You went and hanged out in there before your session and they gave you drinks and cookies and donuts and answered all your questions. And then, when it was time, they took you right to your session! It felt so fancy and weird. The ghost story session went really well, I think. Laura is really lovely and incredibly smart about Memphis history and we had a lot of common approaches to things, even though she ended up in non-fiction and I ended up in fiction. And the audience asked really, really good questions.

So, we finished up and I had a couple of hours until my next session. I went outside and ran back into Steve Steffens–who came to my session!–and he took me over to his friends’ food truck so that I could grab some lunch. He warned me ahead of time that they were out of bratwurst, because Midwesterners know to prepare each other for the lack of bratwurst. It’s basically how you can spot us in any situation where we aren’t carrying a casserole around, looking for a church basement to set it in. “Careful going to the Quad Cities this afternoon. There’s an accident on I-80 and the traffic’s backed way up. Plus, there are no bratwursts to be had in the traffic jam.” “What?! Thank you for the warning, friend! I will go over to the Walmart before I leave town and pick some up.”

Anyway, since they were out of bratwurst, I had what was ostensibly a hot dog. It was like a hot dog. I mean, I could see how it and hot dogs are in the same family. But hot dogs are like your high school boyfriend. This was like when your high school boyfriend’s hot old brother comes home from college and you spend all day acting a fool trying to get him to notice you. This hot dog was the college brother of regular hot dogs. It had a texture more like a sausage than a long tube of bologna and it had some kind of chunky fat bits like a bratwurst. And then put this sweet pepper relish on it that complimented the flavors of the hot dog so well, which only highlighted that the hot dog had flavors, mild flavors, as you’d expect from a hot dog, but flavors. It was the kind of hot dog you eat and then immediately lament that you can’t share it with loved ones.

But then it was time to go back to the green room to get read for my next session. I met two more authors, both who had been at SIBA the year that my place of employment experienced a great SIBA related embarrassment and was banned from ever returning. And, I’ll be damned if they weren’t talking about it! So, that was weird and funny.

My other session was really interesting. My other panelist was a guy from Memphis who started this company. I was immediately like “Coble could spend a lot of time here.” I learned a lot in that session and again, the audience asked such good questions.

I had a really great time. It was well-organized, friendly, and fun. The People at Literacy Mid-South were just fantastic. The only thing I’d do differently if I had to do it again would be to stay two nights and get to take in some of the other panels.

Project X, what?

You know I’ve almost given up hope. but we had a meeting last night and they seem to think that they’ll be taking at least the limited edition to the printer next week. What?! And that we’re in a position to soon start taking orders for the less expensive edition.

The cover they’ve proposed for the less expensive edition is so awesome and terrible I can’t wait to show it to you. I was like “Can we put a pentagram on the cover?” and then I was like “Well, it’s supposed to be cursed and the Devil is a character…”

Anyway, cautious optimism.

Memphis Nerves

Tomorrow I’m driving over to Memphis for the Mid-South Book Festival. There’s a reception tomorrow night and I have two panels on Saturday. I’m excited, but nervous.

This morning, there was a dog in my backyard. I didn’t see him at first but when I got back by the fire he started barking at me from up by the house. I had mixed feelings about what to do, as it was obvious he was staking a claim to the lit area by the garage. So, I ignored him. I turned my back on him and kept walking. And I wondered if that was stupid. But I think dogs look to their opponents for cues, most of the time. I figured my chances were better at not provoking him if I went about my business like normal. I tried to stay gone until it got lighter, so that he might not be so possessive of the garage light when I got back. And then, I cut through the neighbors’ yards, which have many fewer trees than mine, so that, if he did decide to attack me, I’d see him coming a long way off.

I never did see where he went.

But I was sad for him, too. Dogs by themselves make me sad. Every dog should have someone–human or canine–to keep it company. Hiding in someone else’s porchlight is no way to live.


So, yeah, this is the first Pith post I’ve written where strangers have written me to express concern that I might be shot. My friends and the Butcher do sometimes worry. The other day the Butcher wanted to go over where I keep the emails of the people the police should contact if anything should happen to me.

I don’t feel afraid, though. I can’t decide if that’s dumb or if I’m just numb to internet danger after years of trolls. Maybe I can’t recognize real threats anymore because the assholes have thrown off my calibration.

I fear dying.

I fear dying having done only this with my life and feeling like I really have nothing to show for my time here.

I fear being hurt by people who say they love me. Not hurt feelings hurt. I fear what happened before happening again.

I fear that I’ll never experience myself as a successful writer.

I fear disappointing my parents.

But this guy doesn’t really make me fearful. And again, that may be stupid on my part. It does make me wonder.

Doing Nothing Wrong

I wrote about the Radnor Lake Rambo for Pith today. And I’ve been thinking a lot about how, if his crusade is not about publicly escalating his one-man terror-fest until he works up the guts to shoot someone, it’s about demanding the right to be thought of as harmless, no matter what social cues he’s giving off.

You see this come up in other situations, where men get mad when they know they’re just being nice guys by doing something–say following a girl home (to make sure she makes it), or offering to buy a woman a drink after she’s made it clear she no longer wants to talk to you–that sets off the “this guy is trouble” red flag. Like they’re really pissed that they’re not being thought of as harmless.

There are other instances, but you get the gist. And people try to make the argument that, hey, you might be harmless, but you’re doing this red-flag activity and we are not psychic so we have no way of knowing if the guy on campus with a gun is a good guy or a bad guy or if the guy following us home is a good guy or a rapist or if the woman flirting with our partners is friendly or has ill-intentions.

But you can’t indulge in mildly bad, scary behavior and still be treated like you’re harmless. That’s a really weird thing to ask of the world.

Fifteen Years

Today I got my official recognition that I’ve been working here for fifteen years. I have really mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m proud of the work I’ve done and am delighted to have this job. And I’m happy with my life and blah blah blah.

But sometimes things hit you weird. Remind you of the lives you don’t have. Fifteen years both is and isn’t that long. If I’d gotten married in 1999, I’d have a reasonably long marriage at this point. Not that there was anyone to marry in 1999. If I had a kid then, I’d be teaching him or her to drive.

I hate, so hate, how hung up I get on whether I’ve done the right thing. But I do wonder sometimes if I’ve done the right things. Should I have made other choices? Would I be happier or more miserable?

I do what’s safe, what makes me feel safe, because I feel pretty sure there’s nothing to catch me if I fall. I’m not sure that’s the right strategy. But it’s what I’ve adopted.

Isaac Franklin Haunts My Dreams

I felt like I came home from Gallatin with something clinging to me. A bad memory that wasn’t mine. All night long, I dreamed about lost little girls. Sometimes I had lost one, sometimes I was the lost girl.

Do you guys read this blog, That Devil History? Today he’s talking about the urban/rural divide. Here are the people mentioned in the text as articulating the rural, supposedly more moral, side of the debate: Thomas Jefferson, James Henry Hammond, the Agrarians, and Sarah Palin. Lumping the Agrarians all together as one and not looking into it/their lives, that’s 50% rapist.

The thing that’s interesting about Hammond–aside from all the gay sex he had–was that he raped his nieces.

In my Isaac Franklin section, I’m arguing that one of the reasons for the slave traders to invite all planters in an area to the “fancy girl” auctions, where the women were stripped and auctioned off in a sexualized way, was that it was both about bonding–that to be a rich, successful planter meant you could just buy your own whore and have her around instead of having to go to the brothel like a normal man, so you and the rest of your cohorts were celebrating that you all had so much money that you could “waste” it on a slaves whose primary labor was sexual–and about hierarchy–the most desirable women at these auctions had the lightest skin color (Franklin even calls one of them “white.”). So, obviously, they all knew they were buying and raping the daughters of other planters. Which meant that they were standing there, in a group, admitting that they desired to rape the daughters of other planters. That the only think keeping them from raping another planter’s daughter with his wife (his white unenslaved daughter, as opposed to his daughter that Franklin might describe as white, but who was enslaved) was the steep social cost.

But the fantasy had to be that the man with enough status could rape another man’s unenslaved daughters and get away with it.

Hammond had that kind of status. He raped his nieces and got away with it. Got elected to the Senate after the scandal blew over.

Their lives were ruined.

I think about Adelicia Acklen, surrounded in death by her children with Franklin, none of whom lived to adulthood. And I wonder what it must have been like to be married to a man like that. Did he stop raping women after he retired? Did he only rape women in Louisiana on those plantations when he was down there without her? Did she sit in her room, watching him walk down the path to the slave quarters, knowing what he was going there to do? Did he rape her?

I have this desire to read some kind of justice into the fact that none of Franklin’s children lived long enough to have children–that he was such a blight on this world that his line ended with him, or that some old witch cursed the fuck out of him and this is that curse playing out–but that feels like a sick way to think about dead children. And it also feels like a convenient lie. We don’t know how many of Franklin’s children lived long enough to have children. We don’t know how many men raped Franklin’s children like he raped their mothers.

But you can go play golf at one of the sites of Franklin’s atrocities. And I guess I don’t know what I’d want us to do instead. My fear is that we’d tear all these buildings down–because their history is so horrid–except a few we’d leave as museums and then we’d get to pretend the problem wasn’t that wide-spread.

Ten Years Ago, On a Cold, Dark Night…

Ten motherfucking years I’ve been blogging here at Tiny Cat Pants! A quarter of my life. A QUARTER OF MY LIFE! I’ve done nothing consistently that was good for me for that long, except this. I already got mushy on you this month, so I won’t again. I’ll just say that I hope our time together is as rewarding for you as it is for me. A lot of good things have come my way thanks to this here blog.

In honor of ten years, let’s listen to the weirdest, possibly least fortunate version of the best song ever.

I Have Been Seeing Things, Just Not Sharing

The Laundry Never Ends

I tell you, that I didn’t have my parents do some laundry–at least towels–while they were here is a sign of my idiocy so sure I almost can’t believe I have the gall to sit around and complain about how stupid the dog is. Pot, meet kettle.

All I have been doing all day is laundry and writing about Isaac Franklin. I don’t know if it’s very good, but I found it plenty disturbing to write. I’m not trying to write a scholarly book. I want to write a kind of popular history that is well-backed by scholarship. I don’t know how that’s going. But my hope is that it will be fairly short. Because I want people to read it. Ha ha ha.

But I think one thing that I’m kind of displeased about when it comes to the scholarship surrounding Franklin is that, since Franklin and his cronies left such a detailed accounting of their rape-fest approach to life, I feel like their voices become the definitive voices of rapists of slaves. I mean, Edward Baptist writes so fucking brilliantly about how slavery is both a sexual fetish and the fetishization of commodities, but it’s all about raped women and powerless men.

And the thing is that, I think, there’s two things going on here, in part. One, it’s just fucking soul-crushing to look too long at this. I could not not imagine what it must have been like to be those women, raped and stolen from your family and, if you got sick and died, left in a swamp in rural Mississippi, with no grave to even mark your passing. So, of course, with the soul-crushing-ness of it, your brain grasps, just as a defense mechanism, at any kind of shield, makes for itself places you will not go. And the other thing is that other proclivities were probably not going to be so forthrightly discussed.

But of course children and men were raped. There’s very little discussion of it, but of course it happened. It’s what makes Hannah’s story of being purchased as a young girl along with her mother by Jackson and her recalling how Jackson doted on her and let her ride on his horse and on his shoulders. Why would a grown white racist man in a slaveocracy dote on a child he owned?

Now, I’m not saying that Jackson molested Hannah. I’m saying that, when you read about this ubiquitous social evil long enough, all recollections of kindness start to seem suspicious. Like grooming.

It’s hard enough to think of the planter class passing around women like party-favors. To think of them in charge of children separated from their families? With no moral or social boundaries they were willing to abide by?

I mean, at one point, Baptist talks about how Franklin has ended up with a pen full of “small fry,” children unpurchased and separated from their mothers. What happened to them? Who buys a child not yet big enough to do an adult’s work? And what for?

I don’t know. It’s sad and it makes me sick to my stomach, but I feel like pretending like all the rape victims were women lets us avoid thinking of the children and men who must also have suffered that way.

My Dog is Dumb

This morning, as I was walking the dog, I was thinking to myself, “Wow, he’s being incredibly well-behaved and pleasant to walk with. Who would have believed that even six months ago?” And then many more cars than usual started passing us. So, the dog kept trying to put himself between me and the vehicles. Sometimes lunging at the vehicles to keep them back.

So, I had to put him on a very short leash and hip-check him to keep him between me and the curb.

This week has just been unsettled. I had to take the Butcher in to work at a bunch of odd times and… Okay, let’s discuss this bullshit.

I went to Walgreens to pick up my usual prescriptions. They didn’t have them. Because the website decided that the last Walgreens I went to–even though I didn’t order anything from that Walgreens via website; my mom just ran in and filled my prescription after my surgery–must now be the Walgreens I want to do business at. So, now I have to somehow get over to Belle Meade today. Thanks for nothing, Walgreens.

But at least that’s still in town. What if I’d had to fill a prescription on vacation (not that I take vacations lately, but humor me)? Would they just automatically start sending shit to Sarasota?

I HATE when companies, in their efforts to make things easy, try to be helpful in stupid ways.

It’s my second least favorite thing about the digital age. It’s like fucking Clippy writ large.

My first least favorite thing is how I’m asked to write a report after every fucking thing I do. “Please tell us how you liked getting your oil changed.” “Please tell us how your meal was.” “Please tell us how you liked the smell of farts lingering in the back hall of our club.” Just god damn. Let me give you my money, get my service or item, and get on with my day. My feedback is that I don’t want to have the kind of experience where I feel compelled to give feedback.

Let Me Tell You a Story My Dad Told Me About a Girl Who’s a Bird and a Dad Who’s a Tree

Oh, you guys, a while back my dad brought me a faded print-out of a story he had written for me when I was a little girl. As far as I know, it’s the only copy. He wanted me to have it because of Flock. And it’s the story of a little girl who’s a bird who goes around to an alligator, a toad, and a tree and asks if they’re her father.

I can’t be sure, but I feel fairly confident this is the kind of story a man writes after about the 24th time through Are You My Mother? and he decides it’s not nearly weird or charming enough, so he’s going to write something better.

And I kind of love that all the things my dad imagines himself to be in the story have similar coloring.

Anyway, he brought me this story and I was just blown away. And then I lost it! I couldn’t find it anywhere in the house and I was just heartsick about it.

But last night, as I was brushing my teeth, I began to wonder if I was smart enough to have stuck it in my closet “for safe keeping.”

And thank the gods, there it was.


This morning, I was completely in my head on my walk. Not even paying attention to anything but my own thoughts. And I had just turned around when I was like “Did I not go up the hill?” when I realized “well, I must have, because, here I am, coming down it.” But I didn’t feel out of breath or feel my heart racing or anything. I just walked up the hill like it was flat land. It felt good.

Since there are two other Harpe brothers, I have two more stories about women trying to figure out what to do with them and their skulls. I’m trying to sell them, but I’ve kind of decided, depending on how things go with Tom Under the Tree, just in terms of production and such, I might ask Lesley Patterson-Marx if she’d like to do something together. I love her stuff and I love how she gets how the past and present are tied together.

I mean, look at these things: Mother of Known Things and Mother of Mysteries. I look at those and I feel like I’m looking at some secret truth of the world. They’re amazing.

Hurray for Stories

On my walk this morning I was thinking that seeing your story in someone else’s formatting really is one of the nicest things in the world. I fret a lot about whether my stuff is any good, and then, there it is, in someone else’s formatting and it lets me finally see if I like it or not.

One thing that I really like about “Zilpha Murrell” is that I can see how I’m becoming a better writer in it. I don’t know what all my own writing shortcomings are (maybe you don’t until you learn how to fix them?), but I’m definitely getting better at holding the reader’s attention how I want it held for as long as I want it held. Pacing, I guess. I’m getting much better at pacing.

I’m also lately, and obviously, if you’ve been trudging along here, obsessed with which stories get told and passed along and why.

But I feel like I should say that, I now feel pretty confident that Zilpha Murrell wasn’t ever a prostitute. I don’t think we can blame that part of the myth on Virgil Stewart–it seems to have come a little later–but it’s from that same made-up vein. But it is kind of cool to see that, in some versions, Zilpha is the one actually running the Mystic Clan, not her son. Which, I guess, explains how it went on even when he was in prison.

Poor Dog

Both the Butcher and I slept in, so the dog didn’t get his walk. I’ve been sleeping like shit for a long time, but I’m finally sleeping better, so I guess I’m trying to catch up on it.

I was hoping my medical bills would all come in at once, but you’d be amazed at how they can drag out. I mean, I have a deductible. Certainly, at this point, I’ve met it. Can’t I just pay someone that whole lump sum and get on with my life?

I had a long email exchange with the Professor yesterday, because I miss the fuck out of her and rely on her to explain my life back to me.

But I admitted to her that I’m not doing fine. I’m not not doing fine. I don’t need sympathy or understanding (yet, though who knows?). I just am not doing fine. I feel fine, but it’s a fine with no foundation. I don’t feel like I’m standing on solid ground. And yet, I feel like not being fine is inconvenient. Like how can I not be fine? Everything turned out fine. I should be grateful or relieved. And I will be, but I’m just not there yet.

I’m also deeply suspicious that some people think that, if they give me lots of tasks and things to do, that they’re helping because they’re giving me a purpose or a reason to live or something. I don’t know. I know they mean well. I experience it as overwhelming and patronizing. And since I haven’t worked through how I feel about all this, it makes me feel like I’m being lead away from important, if unpleasant, work I need to do in order to make sense of all of this and assigned tasks that make their lives easier. “For my own good.”

I keep looking at the incision and waffling back and forth between whether it’s large or not. Sometimes, I look at it and I’m like “Oh, good, it’s not that big.” and then sometimes I put my finger next to it to measure it and I think, isn’t a slit along the side of your boob that stretches over half the length of your boob large?

I don’t yet know how I feel about things. I want time to just be alone with myself and figure it out.

I mean, at the least, I used to have a curve that fit into the natural resting shape my hand makes and now I have a long, flat stretch.

My landscape has shifted. I need to get used to the new view.

Things Drag Out

I had thought I’d learned the kind of patience you need to be a writer–waiting, always waiting, to hear “no.” But there’s another kind of waiting, where people have said “yes,” but you’re waiting for the printer or the internationally famous superstar who doesn’t even know you exist, but who is, for convoluted reasons, holding things up or for the returned phone calls.

I’m having to learn a new kind of patience.

And lately I have been longing to have a church dinner, to walk into a cement basement painted light gray or white, with long folding tables covered in strangely fancy table cloths with a dish in my hands and we’ll all eat together.

It turns out that’s what I miss about not going to church. Eating with a large room full of people who care about me and who I care about.

Octobering It Up

I’m excited about this October. I’m going to tell you a story called “All Heart, No Brains.” It’s a story about Rufus, if our lives were a tall tale. It’s a genre I enjoyed writing in a lot. So, there is a dog in peril, but I promise you, no one dies. And I don’t have 31 parts. I just don’t have it in me with everything going on. So, it’s just going to run on the weekdays. But then, I do think I’ll have something nifty and special for you on the 31st, so it will all work out.

Plus, the story makes me laugh, so I think it will make you laugh, too.


Keeping in mind that John Murrell gave this kind of speech to people he later murdered, if Stewart was telling the truth, or didn’t give this speech at all if Stewart was a big fat liar, liar pants-on-fire, it still fucking blows my mind. Here’s what Murrell was going to say to slaves as he attempted to incite them into a nation-wide rebellion:

We find the most vicious and wicked disposed ones, on large farms and poison their minds by telling them how they are mistreated, and that they are entitled to their freedom as much as their masters, and that all the wealth of the country is the proceeds of the black people’s labor; we remind them of the pomp and splendor of their masters, and then refer them to their own degraded situation, and tell them that it is power and tyranny which rivets their chains of bondage, and not because they are an inferior race of people. We tell them that all Europe has abandoned slaver, and that the West Indies are all free; and that they got their freedom by rebelling a few times and slaughtering the whites, and convince them, that if they will follow the example of the West India negroes, that they will obtain their liberty and become as much respected as if they were white, and that they can marry white women when they are all put on a level. In addition to this, get them to believe, that the most of people are in favor of their being free, and that the free States, in the United States, would not interfere with the negroes, if they were to butcher every white man in the slave-holding States.

I remain stunned to see someone so clearly articulate that the wealth of this country comes from black people’s labor in 1835. Even if they meant it to be evil and ridiculous.

Good vs. Good

What’s striking about the antebellum South is that there’s an informal definition of “good” (at least among white men) as being “that which is pleasing to God.” What was pleasing to God was knowable, because “good” white people were rewarded–literally rewarded with financial success. One’s fortunes rose and fell based on whether one was pleasing or displeasing God. You can see a lot of this playing out in Gordon Belt’s book in reverse, where Confederate soldiers were admonished to stop sinning so much in the camps so that the Confederacy could get back to winning.

So, in a very simple way, when a slave-owner took the opportunity to fuck a slave–in spite of her protestations, crying, and traumatized behavior afterwards (clues we expect “good” people to recognize now as being evidence that they’ve done something “not good” to someone else)–and he remained wealthy, he understood it as God giving the okay to that kind of behavior. After all, if it was a problem, God would have punished him, probably with financial difficulties.

And as Bridgett pointed out in the comments the other day, “good” men who feared putting their wives through pregnancy often found other people to “have sex with.” This was seen as a loving choice.

White men got to equate “goodness” with prosperity.

Slaves were supposed to equate “goodness” with obedience. Possibly everyone in the South was supposed to equate “goodness” with obedience with slaves supposed to be being obedient to their masters the way that slave masters were obedient to God, and everyone knew when they were being good, because there was a tangible measure of it–masters got rich, slaves got to live.

The thing that strikes me hardest about this arrangement, though, is that, when slaves talked about who was a good master, they never talked about a master who was overwhelmingly financially successful. It’s always about how the master treated his slaves.

The definition most of us accept as the definition of goodness is the slave’s definition–that one’s goodness is measured by how little misery you spread to others.

(Importantly, though, even slaves with good masters, by their own reckoning, wanted to be free. You could have “good” masters, comparatively speaking, and still think slavery was not good.)

I was browsing through Nietzsche and Hegel trying to decide if this is what they observed and I don’t really think so.