I once struggled with the idea of separating artist from art. Not anymore.
I will (sort of) give Donald Trump some backhanded credit, this one time. His presidency made a few things so much easier to figure out–things literally connected to black and white. As in, do you support white supremacy or don’t you?
Country artist Morgan Wallen does. And, upon figuring that out, much of the country music community immediately separated itself from Wallen this week, after he was caught on tape dropping an N-bomb. Wallen was dropped from radio airplay and his label “suspended” him. He’d just released a successful record. This publication thought highly of it. In response to last week’s news, sales and streaming numbers are actually spiking.
If racism doesn’t piss you off, something’s wrong.
It’s racist in any context. There are a lot of words in the English language to joke around with one’s friend. Find another one or stop talking.
What initially jumped at me was the spike in Wallen’s record sales immediately afterward, according to Rolling Stone. Upon further review, a month after murderous racists stormed the United States Capitol, that should not surprise anyone.
This is getting so tiresome.
Not the conversations about race; we need more of those. How else do we get better if we don’t talk? Ignoring it and hoping it goes away didn’t work. How else do we look out for each other–all of us, not just the ones who look like us and believe the things we do?
As a kid, I wondered what would happen if angry space aliens–so different they can just mean-look us to death–invade the planet when James T. Kirk happens to be on vacation and we’re on our own.
In my scenario, among humans, three races each got a third of the pieces necessary for the giant guns. Another race got the giant bullets. Another race had the big space platforms needed to shoot at the angry aliens.
Suddenly we’re no different and better work together fast. Simplistic, to be sure, but humans seem to require being spoken to like a 6-year-old.
A more realistic way to expose and eliminate racism on a planet where Earthlings share 99.99 percent of genetic material is to finally shine a light in the small crevices and corners in which the powerful lived for decades, telling themselves things are better and they bear no responsibility.
We elected a Black president; actually a mixed race president. Racism must’ve certainly ended, as some apologists pointed out. We forgot this is America, where the one-drop rule had legal standing some places not that long ago.
We also forgot about gravity, and how it always releases the pendulum at its highest point. It swung back the other way and, voila, we got Trump, an Andrew Jackson fanboy openly courting white extremists. A rich, white fascist so in touch with his blue-collar voters that he believed they needed an ID to buy groceries.
Now it’s out there. We flipped the kitchen light late at night and exposed the cockroaches. And we have to decide what to do about it.
Is it fair to decide whether to listen to someone’s music based on whether they think it’s OK to drop an N-bomb, even in (supposed) jest? I used to wonder, but not anymore. I still believe extremism in any direction is mostly bad, but it’s no longer 1955 (when it was still inexcusable, but one could more plausibly point out it still takes a long time to turn around the cultural ocean-liner).
People are saying our country hasn’t been so ideologically divided since the Civil War. That’s not true. It always been at least this divided; some of us were just in position to ignore it. It feels like there’s no way to reconcile or excuse supporting art made by people who practice racism.
People have no excuse anymore. Let’s start with Morgan Wallen.
Follow music critic Tony Hicks at Twitter.com/TonyBaloney1967.