I'm just a newsletter author, standing in front of his readers, asking for them to consider a paid subscription
It would be great to have your support, but it's already a gift to just have you around
If you subscribe to newsletters, you know that if a newsletter author says “I have news” they generally mean one of two things:
They had a major life/career change and the newsletter has to evolve to reflect that change.
[More frequently] They are now (or soon will be) offering a paid subscription tier.
I have no major life updates to share. I am still working on my book, Race of Strangers (I’m getting a big pile of edits back from my editor soon and I. AM. NERVOUS1). I am still running Barnraisers cohorts [A delight! The next group starts the week of September 12th and you can sign up here to get notified as soon as registration opens on August 10th]. A couple of months ago, I was worried that the book/multiple Barnraisers cohorts would mean less time for the newsletter. I told you all, “I’ll be sending fewer newsletters” and then I kept sending them at pretty much the same pace. Way to underpromise and over-deliver, past me.
Oh and no new personal news either. Kjersti and I still have the same two kids we’ve had for the past five years. They’re great. We’re about to go on vacation.
That, of course, narrows it down.
Starting today, when you click the “subscribe” button you’ll be given the choice to pay for this newsletter on either a monthly or annual basis. If you don’t, you’ll continue to basically get the same White Pages experience you always have. I will continue to capitalize words that don’t need to be capitalize for my own enjoyment.
Perhaps that’s all you need to hear! You already know whether or not you want to support The White Pages financially and there’s no reason to read any further. Subscribe (or don’t!) and then enjoy what I hope is a nice summer day wherever you are. If it’s hot, I highly recommend going to Dairy Queen and getting a dipped cone.
But, maybe you have questions! That’s ok too! Let’s give this a shot.
How much does a paid subscription to The White Pages/The Barnraisers Project cost?
A White Pages/Barnraisers Project membership is $50 annually or $5 monthly. Alternately, for $250 a year, you get all the things that a $50 member gets AND you get a Barnraisers sweatshirt and/or a t-shirt and a tote bag. I think they look nice! I made them b/c I thought having public radio style premiums was funny for an organization with a largely White liberal constituency.
Oh, and if you are already a Barnraisers donor and/or an alumni of the cohorts (or if you’re in a tough financial position), you get the annual (non “pledge drive”) membership for free. Just email me directly and I’ll just add you to the list. I want past Barnraisers supporters to not feel obligated to double dip and, especially in this current economic moment, I don’t want anybody to feel like they’re only valued here if they have discretionary income to share
What does being a member mean? Why would I want to support something that I currently get for free?
Well, in general I’m a believer in networks of mutual care and support. I think we should lift up and contribute to the things we enjoy and value and I have a sense that a lot of you enjoy and value this newsletter. Currently, there are about 5000 White Pages subscribers. On one hand, there are much bigger newsletters out there. On the other hand, if The White Pages were a municipality, we’d be one of the 20 largest cities in Montana [ok, that might not seem impressive to most of you, but when you grow up in Montana, getting ‘Polson-sized’ means you’re big enough to support a Class A High School, a real Safeway (not just an IGA!) and- per my summer advice above- a Dairy Queen]. What’s more, a bunch of you read The White Pages a lot. About 60% of you open any given email, and 1200 of you have opened more than 30 separate emails from me. That’s a lot of opening! And reading, I hope!
I do want to offer the community that supports me a bit more, though, so here’s what a base membership also entitles you to:
A weekly2 closed discussion thread. I already host these threads on a private page for Barnraisers Project alumni, but I think the discussion would benefit from a slightly larger group and a less wonky interface (and it sounds like my most active participants in that community are down to experiment with a space over here, which is kind of them). Sometimes these are frivolous, sometimes they’re us making sense of the world (especially when current events feel overwhelming), sometimes they’re about racism and Whiteness and organizing. Often times it’s me or other folks in the community soliciting advice. They’re low-key and fun and private and so far nobody has been a jerk. I also have a sense that they’ll be particularly important on days when there is extremely bad, distracting news and we find ourselves seeking empathetic, caring folks who can help us feel less alone.
Occasional subscribers-only posts3. One benefit of a more closed community is that I have a place to share a more detailed/nuanced annual Barnraisers update for supporters (and to get feedback!). I’ve been wanting to write that for quite some time but that I haven’t been able to find the right platform for it. But there are other things I want to do too. Some days I wake up and want to write something different from my typical 1500-2500 jeremiad about community and organizing and battling individualism. Sometimes I want to recommend things I love (like books about the birth of modern White conservatism. Or songs by Tom T. Hall and Westside Gunn and Annika Norlin. Or very specific menu items at prominent national soft-serve ice cream chains. Sometimes I want to riff on how social movements are (very poorly) depicted in movies (I just re-watched Forrest Gump the other night! Ask me anything!4). Or talk at length about the 2013 (!!!) Brad Paisley/LL Cool J song “Accidental Racist.”5 Sometimes I want to pay tribute to White anti-racist activists from the past. Sometimes I want to rank things and make you mad (for instance, if I were ranking U.S. cities I would rank Tulsa over New York and Los Angeles, yes, including as a place to get involved politically. See, I got your attention!).
What about that “pledge drive tier?” What do the sweatshirts/t-shirts/tote bags look like?
Will the free White Pages experience change?
Nope. You’ll get free newsletters at the same irregular-but-generally-biweekly pace that you always have. The biggest change will be that you’ll also sometimes get “preview” posts of some of the paid content that I’m writing, and while that is basically a marketing gimmick I also hope that you find those half-posts interesting and fun.
Donations to The Barnraisers Project are tax deductible. Is the same true when I purchase a White Pages membership?
No. Although I consider this newsletter, my book and The Barnraisers Project to be a singular, interconnected project, the Internal Revenue Service (correctly) begs to differ. For that reason, if you would like to make a tax deductible contribution to this work, you should do so at The Barnraisers Project website (there are more options for how much you can give there as well). Shortly after you donate there, either myself or my colleague Carly will send you an email offering an invitation to the members-only White Pages community.
Why are you (Garrett) doing this?
Oh, I bet you can guess most of the reasons. That stuff I wrote above about communities of care and support is a big piece of it— I think if we don’t ask for help and support ourselves, we’re not really practitioners of mutual aid, we’re just rebranding our charity work under a new zeitgeisty name. I could use support to keep this work sustainable, so I’m asking my community to help me out. By the same token, I hope that you feel that if you ever could use any help from me, you would ask for it as well.
Also: I enjoy offering a closed-off discussion/reflection space for Barnraisers Project participants, but I’ve long thought it was pretty artificial to close that off to only folks who’ve been through the cohorts. There are a lot of you whom I admire and respect who haven’t been through the cohorts, and if I care about building and cultivating community, it seems dumb to not expand the boundaries of the communities I’m cultivating.
As for the bonus posts: I think those’ll be fun too!
And finally (of course)… the financial support legitimately helps! In the last year, I’ve been able to move from a world where I subsidize my writing/organzing with other freelance work to being able to both make Barnraisers organizing my full time job and to pay for a talented colleague (Carly Ganz) to do this work by my side. We have trained over 600 people from across 46 states and a dozen countries, launched a 2.0 cohort for alumni and supported dozens of organizing projects (from reparations collectives to innovative neighborhood organizing to school integration efforts). And while neither of us are getting rich off this work (and I continue to tithe a percentage of my salary to other organizers/activists), we want to keep devoting as much time to spreading the good word that White America isn’t consigned to selfishness and individualism. To put it simply, we can only do this work because we’re supported by a community of like-minded folks.
Why shouldn’t I (an average White Pages reader) support this?
Oh goodness, there are plenty of reasons. Maybe you really hate my writing (though, if you get enough enjoyment out of hate-reading me, maybe that is a good reason to keep me going; gotta get your thrills somewhere, I suppose). Maybe you’re fed up with the number of different subscriptions you have to juggle already in this Everybody Is An Entrepreneur moment we’re all in (I get it!). Or maybe, in a world of profound need, you justifiably feel like there are better places to spend your money than on a straight cis White guy who will still very much be able to pay his mortgage if his Substack revenue dips. All good reasons! You’ll hear no judgment from me.
My one request is, again, if your reason for not buying a subscription is that money is tight and/or you’ve already supported my work, please send me an email and I’ll add you to the list for free. No worries.
Alternately, let’s say I (an average White Pages reader) really, really want to support this work? What else I can do?
Tell your friends! About this newsletter! About The Barnraisers Project! About how there is a growing (international! intergenerational! and yes, mostly White but also multiracial!) community of lovable weirdos who are inspired by Anne and Carl Braden and Peggy Terry and the Southern Student Organizing Committee and who believe that White people aren’t consigned to making the world less livable for everybody, but instead can pick up a shovel and help build a better world. And always feel free to reach out. I like you all, a lot.
Is that all?
Yes! Thank you, sincerely, for being here. I first started the White Pages when I was researching for the work that would become Barnraisers. It was a pretty lonely enterprise, but I had all these ideas swirling and wanted to have smart people give me feedback and push my thinking. I remember the idea first hit me on a super humid Minneapolis summer day— my wife was at a work conference and I was watching our kids, which meant plenty of time for idle thoughts. I texted my friend Athena (a truly great writer and thinker) to ask if perhaps a newsletter wasn’t the salve to my loneliness.
Athena’s answer was something to the effect of “sure, but keep your expectations low,” so I sent a couple of emails and made a couple of social media posts asking friends and friends-of-friends if they would like to read some ongoing reflections. This link might not work, but if it does it’ll take you to my very first issue. Obviously, my format has evolved a bit- eventually the “longer piece of writing” became the whole deal. Regardless, about 150 people read that first edition, most of whom are still around (hi!). Since then, we’ve had many more new people joining this little community, with a few more of you joining just last night (again, hi!). These are still lonely times in the world, so thanks you all for making me feel like I’m not in this work alone.
This week’s song: The best-ever song about receiving financial compensation for an honest day’s work, “Just Got Paid” by ZZ Top
I am also, however, getting to work on a mood board for the cover so please, please, please send me your favorite covers (most books about race or Whiteness have boring covers— it’s a lot of plain white backgrounds with black text or plain black backgrounds with white text).
These might end up being more frequent, but I’m going to start on a Wednesday cadence and see how that feels, with occasional exceptions for breaking news/processing space.
“Occasional” is a very intentional choice here. I both (a). don’t want to get to a place where bonus posts become obligatory rather than fun and (b). I also don’t want to send you too many emails. I have a hunch you already have many emails!
I mean, I already knew that movie’s politics are really conservative and that the depiction of the ‘60s Left is wild, but what really shocked me (but also strikes me as pretty honest and telling) was the blithe, surreal way it was both fixated on and deeply uninterested in the subject of political assassination. Forrest Gump loved showing assassinations! But almost as a joke? Like “haha, we certainly are a country that loves shooting its leaders!” I’m still processing it. Also, the “Forrest Gump invents jogging” subplot went on for a really long time.
Surely you haven't forgotten this song! It contained the lyric “If you don’t judge my do-rag!/I won’t judge your red flag!” Which isn’t even its worst lyric! It was roundly mocked upon release. And fairly so, because it’s terrible! And there’s probably no reason for me or anybody to have anything more to say about it nine years later. But I also think the backlash to that song was an interesting case study in smarty-pants critiques that don’t help anything. And maybe there’s a subscriber’s only post in there. [Also, the line “The relationship between the Mason/Dixon needs some fixin’” is really funny].