By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — Molly Secours is an acclaimed, nationally recognized writer, author and filmmaker whose work, both in print and on the screen, has long been highly respected throughout her two plus decades on the local scene. But Secours, who’s made
With a host of distinguished scholars, activists and academics ranging from Juvenile Court Judge Shelia D. Calloway to journalist Ellis Close, Professor Robin D.G. Kelley and many others offering advance praise, White Privilege Pop Quiz – Reflecting on Whiteness is also generating plenty of regional and national discussion.
Secours recently took a few minutes away from her hectic schedule to answer some questions for the Tribune. In the interest of full disclosure, I am one of the people who contributed some early editing to the project, which dates back eight years.
What’s the genesis of this book and how long did it take to complete it?
“I originally wrote it in 2012 after Trayvon Martin was murdered. It evolved out of a pop quiz I wrote for White people to reflect on to understand the invisible nature of privilege and the questions (most) White people have never asked themselves. I stuck the quiz up on my website and in less than a year over 100,000 people took it.”
“After that response (which was flabbergasting) I then spent the next year turning it into a book. I was going to release it the following year, but my mother died, and then John Egerton, a beloved Nashville writer/historian and friend who was going to edit the book died, and a dozen more friends and family in the next 13 months died. It was a horrible time. I was wiped out and I didn’t have a publisher or the heart to release it. Besides, no one was going to publish a book about White Privilege at that time. So I shelved it.”
What would you cite as principal reasons for doing it?
“The inspiration was Trayvon Martin. Like so many others I was devastated after he was murdered. I also felt this strange and eerie déjà vu moment because six years before he was killed, I had written a piece about a community meeting in East Nashville where new residents were profiling young Black males between the ages of 12-18.”
“There was actually a community meeting where the police captain at the East Precinct encouraged residents to call the police if they saw a young Black male between the ages of 12 -18 wearing a hoodie. That was it. That was the description. When I pointed out at the meeting that it wasn’t the description, it was an indictment of every young Black male in my neighborhood. Anyway, that didn’t go over very well. Remember, it was about 2005 or 2006, and the words White Privilege were not ‘welcome’…well, not that they are exactly welcome now.”
“The book is 13 chapters with 13 questions that White people rarely (or never) have asked themselves about race. I wrote it because after 20 years of thinking about Whiteness and privilege and writing articles about disparities in Criminal Justice, Education and Healthcare, I wished someone had given me a manual with questions for myself. “
Are you surprised by the response/reaction?
“Yes, I’ve been floored. I thought it was time for the book, but I had no idea it would be received like it is. When I first started talking about White Privilege it made people angry. It still does some, but not like it did in the early 2000’s.”
“After George Floyd was murdered I could see people desperate for something. White friends were calling me asking me what to do and who to read. Thank God for Ibram Kendi and Robin DeAngelo and Ta Nehisi Coates and of course many others, but “How To Be An Anti-Racist” was like an answered prayer. It was a life raft, but what I was hearing from people told me there was room and maybe a need for more. And that’s when I decided to get “White Privilege Pop Quiz” out of the drawer and update a few things. Sadly, it wasn’t very outdated. Just a lot more names of Black people who had been murdered and some televised.”
Have you heard from other Black authors or anti-racism scholars?
“Yes I have. Some of them were early readers of the book. Robin D. G. Kelley and Naomi Tutu both gave me quotes that made me want to cry and some others. I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement to put the book out and trust that those who need it most will read it. “
There’s a tendency to attempt and reduce all issues to a simple left/right, liberal/conservative dichotomy. But it seems to me the issue of racism and White privilege is a lot more complicated than that. Do you agree?
“Oh my goodness, yes. Very complicated. It’s not a left/right thing. And what I’m most gratified by is that people who consider themselves hip, white, liberal, progressive have come to me after reading it and divulged how surprised that with all the work they thought they had done, or because of how they vote, that they were surprised at how many of the questions in the book they’d never thought of. That’s pretty much across the board.”
Are you ultimately relived that you finally got it done?
“Strange you should ask this question because it just occurred to me today that I didn’t know how badly I needed to get that book out of me and out into the world until the last couple of weeks. I feel a strange sense of calmness having birthed it into being. It’s not something I thought about until the last few days. But yes, I am relieved, and feel somewhat complete. Honestly, I never thought it would happen.”
“White Privilege Pop Quiz – Reflecting On Whiteness” is available at Parnassus Books in Green Hills and at other area bookstores, or online