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Music culture divides, dejects

Joseph Delano, jdelano@lmcexperience.com

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I adore all people. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what your skin color or sexual orientation is, or what your political beliefs are, I respect you. I respect you as a person who is just trying to live your life, just as I am. 

I am lucky to have been raised that way — it’s one of my favorite things about my upbringing.

I wanted to say this, because I feel that in defense of what some would call an imagined state of “reverse racism,” I fear I may come across as narrow-minded and ill-informed. 

I have been thinking about, and discussing amongst friends, the idea of reverse racism, or racism towards whites. I struggled to articulate what exactly it was that I perceived to be this “attack” on white culture. 

For the most part, I agree that because white society has both historically and modernly been the oppressor, there can be no such thing as racism towards them. 

There is definitely a deep-seated sense of resentment toward whites from people of color, including the black, Asian and Hispanic communities, among others, but that can rarely be interpreted as blatant racism. 

That being said, there are certainly some avenues of expression that I feel are tools to separate my race from that of others. My best, most obvious example lies within the music industry. 

Beyoncé dropped “Lemonade” in 2016 and lit the world on fire. Clearly an expression of power, fragility, fortitude and vulnerability, the music resonated deeply with black women. 

Here’s the problem — I love that album. I sang it at home, school and in the car and had lengthy discussions about its themes with friends and coworkers. 

All that time, I was repeatedly told by people of color close to me that the music “wasn’t for me” and that I couldn’t possibly understand and/or relate to the struggles depicted or implied through the lyricism. 

Do you know how disheartening it is for a person who is all about expression through music to be somewhat shamed for having the audacity to enjoy music meant seemingly for black ears only? As Friedrich Nietzsche said,

“Without music, life would be a mistake.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche

That quote is with me always. 

But it is not only about implied struggle. 

For me, listening to hip-hop, R&B or rap these days means wading through a sea of N-words used for no other reason than to fill up space in a song. 

To use that word as often as most people say “fuck” is dangerous in an environment where all races are listening to your work.

I have a problem with this for a couple of reasons. 

For one, only a certain population is “allowed” to say the N-word. All others are called racist if they use it, for the most part. 

Secondly, and most importantly, the same people who are producing this music and knowingly inserting that word, which only a certain group of people can “enjoy,” are the same people benefiting from the sales, the revenue from the outside races who purchase the music. 

Are whites allowed to enjoy modern hip-hop and rap? Well, that depends on your meaning of enjoyment. 

For me, I like to sing and rap along to whatever I am listening to. But that’s where things get tricky. Do I say the words that could, and probably would, turn others against me, if only in the back of their minds? Or do I sing/rap all of the other words and skip over the forbidden verbiage? To me, that is not enjoying the music, but running a constant filter, which sucks the soul out of it. 

That leaves just two options. One is that I listen but don’t participate. (Hint: I don’t not participate) The final option is to avoid the music. 

For the most part, I avoid those genres. I would rather not listen to those songs than have to continuously struggle through my own moral and ethical code.

This kind of cognitive dissonance messes with me, and it’s a pain I’d rather not deal with.  I know this may not seem terrible, and it most definitely is not racism, but there is certainly a chasm between what I can listen to and what others have decided am I allowed to enjoy. 

There are other examples, but music is the easiest for me to discuss because, honestly, being a white male in a white man’s world is not difficult. Duh.

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Music culture divides, dejects