Three years on, and I'm still checkin' for fools. July 13 marks the three-year anniversary of the inception of "Your Negro Tour Guide." This is your 140th Tour, regardless of where you hopped on or bailed out.
In "In the beginning" (issue of July 13-19, 2000), I promised you "this gig will speak. This space will speak peace." Well, throughout three years my detractors — you know who you are 'cause you're reading this right now — have called me everything but peaceful.
I've been accused of race baiting; I've been called a racist. Others have said I'm a race traitor, that I'm not black enough.
I've had do-do flung at me with such vim and vigor it should be an Olympic event. Some of you have corrected my grammar (to no avail) and questioned my vocabulary (with little success).
But my favorite part in the give-and-go of columnist-to-reader is the palpable "who does she think she is" undertow. This seething disbelief mostly comes from white men — the Other White Meat. It boils down to anger, resentment and a strange car-wreck attraction they have for me when my truths aren't in alignment with theirs.
They let me have it. As they should.
"It was a nice surprise to have a few weeks' worth of issues that didn't include Ms. Wilson's hate-filled and vitriolic diatribes," writes Michael Vaughn. "I see she is back this week, unfortunately."
Aaaww. How sweet. He missed me.
Unlike Mike — I don't know if he's white, but his e-mail begs deconstruction — I won't feign respect by assigning "Mr." to his surname. I'll do as I've done for three years. I'll keep it authentic, Mike.
Notice Mike's time reference in "a few weeks' worth of issues." Despite his curmudgeonly tone, he's an avid reader of CityBeat and of the Tour. He undoubtedly self-loathes because of it, as he inexplicably finds himself turning to the Tour week in and week out to get his juices goin'.
Therefore, a few weeks running he was disappointed when he flipped through Voices, ready to embark on another enlightening lightning round of Kathyness. Meanwhile, I was traipsing through Amsterdam and ambling through Paris on my summer vacation.
I know, I know. Reading the Tour is sometimes a guilty pleasure, like ogling a black woman when you're with your white wife. More times than I can count I get smacked upside the head with, "I never agree but I always read you." It's my favorite backhanded compliment.
Strangely, Mike is my favorite type of reader — that hostile male, smoke blowing from both nostrils. I like 'em because however angry they keep coming back, dukes up, ready to pitch CityBeat in disgust. They always come back.
And how and why they return really is no reflection on me, because I stopped internalizing readers' responses at about Tour No. 5. I bet it's the sentences.
I'm not a crybaby, and I don't get off on victim language. Column writing, however, is a grind.
I'd like to see you elevate your opinions — beyond the Monday-morning quarterbacking and bar stool pontificating some readers use to appease their status quo — on race, religion, gender, white male entitlement, slavery reparations, black middle-class apathy, Charlie Luken, boycotters, black-on-black crime, police misconduct, Strom Thurmond, Timothy Thomas, classism, intra-racial bigotry and white appropriation. Then, do it again. And again. And then again.
By my calculations, in three years I've missed 16 columns to vacation, illness, fatigue, editorial space, stale ideas and the fear of publishing bad sentences.
I don't mean to sound defensive. Really, I'm not. It's a cake gig. Where else but America can a black woman criticize the very system that also employs her? Huh?
You need to know that I basically get paid to think for a living. By the time I face the iMac's blue glow, the Tour is a forgone conclusion.
I struggled with this one because, though I can be wistful, I'm not sentimental. The anniversary nearly blew past me before I realized it'd been three years. It felt like only two. Look for a book full o' Tours in September.
In closing, there are some folks I wanna thank. Without them, it would've been merely a smooth ride. You made it jarring. You made it productive.
Big ups to Mayor Luken, Councilwoman Alicia Reece and those anonymous black firefighters, Angela Leisure, Nathaniel Livingston and Amanda Mayes, Lincoln Ware, everyone at WCIN (1480 AM), Joe and Carla Tucker, my niggas in Over-the-Rhine, the late Timothy Thomas, every offended white male reader, every confused black reader, Darlene D'Agostino, the Hot Seat crew, my barber Al Williams and Nicole, my eyebrow tech. And my mamma.
See ya' next week, Mike. Same black channel, same black station.
Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.