I was eight years old when I asked my mother why my favorite band, the Dixie Chicks, was in so much trouble.
It was 2003, the United States was about to invade Iraq, and the country trio were on top of the charts. At a concert at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London that March, band member Natalie Maines had told the crowd, “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”
The backlash was swift. Fans were incensed, and the Dixie Chicks were blacklisted from thousands of radio stations across the country and lost lucrative partnership deals and sponsorships.
In today’s parlance, they were canceled.
It took over a decade and a comeback album for the trio to fully return to the spotlight. Now, with over 33 million albums sold in the United States, they are the best-selling female group in the country. And then last week they released a protest song and announced that the group is dropping Dixie (the word refers to the Southern states which formerly made up the Confederacy) from their name to become The Chicks.
For a group that once lost their fanbase for speaking out, this latest move is especially significant. It signals a national reckoning that’s been a long time coming.
Back in 2003, my mother explained the band’s controversy by telling me the group took the politics of their audience for granted. While the trio was formed in Dallas, the city is a blue spot in a sea of red, and country music had increasingly become the soundtrack of conservative life.
Growing up in the Bible Belt, as I did, I saw few girl groups and feminist icons who looked and sounded like the women I knew. White Southern women are much more likely to be conservative Evangelical Christians than those on the coasts—which is why singers like The Chicks and Dolly Parton (who dropped the Dixie from her Stampede dinner show in 2018) were so important to me. They encouraged individuality, open-mindedness, and speaking out against injustice—relatively rare in a genre that has historically reflected the values of its conservative base.
But the uprising that’s currently happening around the country is forcing white Americans to grapple with our nation’s brutal past and present in a way like never before, and the reaction to The Chicks’ activism this time around is markedly different. While the name change wasn’t universally applauded, the band is certainly not canceled and the comments across social media have been overwhelmingly positive. In the words of one Instagram commenter, @emstagram.624, “Did we drop ‘Dixie’ from the band name?! HELL YES.!!!! Thank you. Signed, a white girl from Texas.”
Dropping Dixie won’t bring about racial justice, of course, but the deeper reflection it represents does signal a shift in our national ethic. This fight is not just a liberal, coastal issue—it requires work from all corners of the country—and perhaps that change is finally coming.
Laura E. Adkins is an award-winning writer, editor, and speaker based in New York City.
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