I'm going to be purposefully vague about these details to avoid casting aversion on those who don't deserve it.
I auditioned for a new country artist and got the gig. It was going to be a fairly steady paycheck with decent music. After 3 days of charting, there were 3 days of rehearsals. Everything was fine and professional. The first gigs were this weekend.
I spent 3 days having to listen to 2 people in the organization go back and forth about "n!gg@r this, n!gg@r that" and telling "n!gg@r" joke after joke.
I expressed to the manger, that kind of atmosphere was unacceptable and I would not work in it. I honestly don't know if they will make changes.
I'm hoping these 2 guys are just bad apples in country music and the vast majority people involved aren't filled with this kind of hate.
So I'm just letting you know, if you think I over-reacted or you don't see the harm in a little playful racism, then don't ever call me for a gig. I am not the guy for you.
If you got a sick feeling in your stomach or were angered by just reading the veiled words I put in quotes, then you got just a taste of what I had to feel all this weekend. And that's not even a drop in the bucket of what a lot of people had to grow up in and what many still live with.
1. Prejudice or animosity against other people who belong to other races.
2. The belief that people from different races have different qualities and abilities, and that some races are inherently superior or inferior.
Here's a definition of a racist.
Prejudiced against all people who belong to other races.
Racism as we know it, if we go by definition, is one person who has a problem with another person based on their physical characteristics. However, there are other forms of racism as we know it but it's called other things, like sexism for instance. So here's my question to all of you, if racism is based on physical characteristics, what do you label or call it if I am a victim of prejudice by other whites? I look like any other white person here in the south but I am Jewish so most people would never know if I didn't say anything about it. So being that I look like any other white person but they were prejudice against me, is it still racism? Is it something else that I am unaware of? I have been a victim of ethnic slurs or stereotypes from when I lived in NY by kids I went to school with. Was that racism? Was that ethnicism, not that that's a word but it's the best I could come up with right now. Is what the Germans did in WW2 racism or was it ethnic cleansing? Is there a difference? I'm just curious because we have so many labels for things these days.
personally, i'd call what you experienced anti-semitism. anti-semitism is a specific form of prejudice and racism aimed at people of jewish descent.
obviously, he color of your skin isn't the only determination of race. neither is your physical appearance. that's why most definitions of racism and prejudice don't limit the definition to skin color or physical traits.
is it really necessary to give you examples of how minorities are being discriminated against in today's culture and business climate? if you want a list, i can readily supply one. i have pages of data and examples. i would think that fact is self-evident.
as for our industry, i can tell you about meetings where the viability of an artist was questioned because radio wouldn't play them because they were black. or about the artist and producer who would only agree to allow me to remix their material if i guaranteed them that it wouldn't sound like "nigger music." and i have no doubt that if we spoke to those who are in the minority, we'd hear a number of stories that most of us would find upsetting.
but does that knowledge help us stop what is going on? or does it simply lend itself to acting on the symptoms without dealing with the root of the issue?
i do believe that among musicians and artists there are bonds that develop that can help us move beyond our stereotypes and prejudices. and we have made progress. but racism is racism is racism. i'm just as concerned by what i see outside our industry as by what i see in it. because ultimately, there's overlap. and if our industry is so enlightened that we've mended our racial divisions, then perhaps we should be working harder to show the world how it can be done.
what can we, as an industry, do to fight racism? here are a few suggestions:
1. admit that racism exists. it's not about assigning blame. it's about realizing that it does exist and that we can do something about it, if we choose. this admission starts at home with a careful examination of myself. what beliefs, stereotypes or prejudices exist in my own life that contribute to the problem? how does racism benefit me? how does it harm me?
2. create the dialogue. this forum is an example. by moving beyond political correctness, we get a chance to hear ourselves. to identify areas that need improvement or to trade stories of our experience. what progress have we made? where do we need improvement?
3. be proactive in facilitating diversity. it's problematic to me that we're discussing issues of racism with little or no representation from minorities. i'm going to reach out to the black members of our music community and ask them to become more involved. to participate with us in an honest dialogue about race and racism.
4. recognize that it's a process, not an event. we learn as we go. we make mistakes. but we if we're dedicated to the ideals of justice, equality, love and compassion, we can contribute to the process along the way.
i can tell you about meetings where the viability of an artist was questioned because radio wouldn't play them because they were black.
Radio doesn't play black artist? That's almost like saying TV doesn't broadcast black oriented programs when we all know there is even a network exclusively designed to entertain blacks - BET.
this admission starts at home with a careful examination of myself. what beliefs, stereotypes or prejudices exist in my own life that contribute to the problem?
What about the very real problems that inspire and support the stereotypes in the first place? Don't people need to give equal attention to those matters? Today CNN reported that 1 out of 2 HIV carriers in America are black. This lends credibility to just of many popular stereotypes (more blacks get AIDS then whites). Now, in "examining myself", what could I possibly do to change the sexual promiscuity and lack of discipline that has resulted blacks making up a disproportionate amount of the AIDS cases.
or about the artist and producer who would only agree to allow me to remix their material if i guaranteed them that it wouldn't sound like "nigger music."
Oh, is that the music where they constantly rap the word "nigger" back and forth?... The stuff that comes with that "Parental warning" on it? Yeah, I wouldn't want my stuff to sound like that either. Haha.
Of course, I'm not saying racism is non-existent, but reading your posts make it look like some kind of epidemic of mass proportions. I think you can give society a little more credit.
Thanks Steve. I would respectfully say yes, you do need to share this kind of stuff and list examples. It's not always self-evident. I have never witnessed the type of racist meetings or producers asking me not to make things sound too ethnic that you have mentioned. I have worked with many minorities over my career and I have never seen them racially discriminated against within the industry. How can I put out a fire if I don't see the flames? Maybe I am blind. Maybe my experience is isolated. I am not denying that there are incidents of racial discrimination going on in our society but are they really prevalent and rampant? I don't see it. I may be wrong. Even an isolated incident is too much but it does it call for saying racism is as strong as ever?
I believe that the opportunities for minorities have never been greater than they are right now. Yes there are some small groups of ignorant people but they don't control public policy. I think most educated non-minorities do everything they can to provide a level playing field for all in society. Will it ever be totally level? I doubt it.
When I think of racism, I don't always associate it with name calling or word usage. It's more about denying opportunity and equal access or at worse, bodily harm. Any idiot bully can call somebody a name but they don't have the power to keep someone out of school, or to get basic emergency health care and so on.... anymore.
brett, i appreciate that we're both working to keep the discussion one of open dialogue rather than debate. my intention is not to be argumentative, but simply to open up the question for a deeper examination.
obviously, our experiences with racism have been different. this need not be a question of who is right or who is wrong, as much as one of seeking to understand how our perceptions and our beliefs are shaped. admittedly for me, racism is a passionate subject. part of that is fueled by my education and experience in the mental health field. part of that is fueled by my exposure to racism in appalachia where i grew up. part of that is fueled by a faith that compels me to seek justice and compassion. part of that is fueled by my experiences and work in small groups where i have been exposed to how more subtler forms of racism exist, and how we're not simply changing attitudes, but confronting history and organizational structures.
i have never said that racism is as strong as ever. i've certainly acknowledged that progress has been made. and that's a wonderful thing. but i see racism as a complex issue. i also see that we have a lot more work to be do before we can rest.
if all you hear in my voice is condemnation, then i haven't been very effective in communicating. we are certainly in agreement that racism isn't simply an issue of name calling. sometimes, that's not as much racism as it is an issue of prejudice or simple ignorance. too often, the term "racist" is thrown around and, as a result, we become desensitized to the subtler forms of racism or the residual effects of racism. instead, we get caught up in debates that focus less on the topic and more on the ideology.
and perhaps that's what i'm hoping is really heard here. the fact that we have made progress and the fact that there are opportunities available now for minorities (both in general and specifically in our industry) means that more than ever we should be vigilant.
i would hope to see more minorities not only as musicians and artists, but as label executives, managers, publishers and attorneys. i would hope to see more minorities actively participating in the forefront of the music industry here in nashville...and in dialogues like this one. if there's a way i can open a door to that diversity, i want to do it. because while i know opportunities exist, i know that it's still not an even playing field.
if each of us works to combat prejudice and racism where we see it, whether that be in our industry or our government or our healthcare or our family and friends, we'll always be making steps to continue the progress that we've made, progress that has been accomplished by the blood, sweat and tears of others who have fought the battle far more consistently and passionately than i could ever hope to.
I never meant to imply that it would negate or discount any racism towards minorities.
For the record, I don't like the term reverse racism and I refuse to use it. Racism is racism, and being oppressed doesn't excuse it.
"even if we grant that it occurs," Do you really have to grant it? We can both take a walk through select neighborhoods and see if we don't experience it. :-)
And by the way, there are some all white neighborhoods in Southeast Ohio I wouldn't walk through at night either.
I try to look at this stuff from the lense of science and reality rather than idealism and fantasies of total intercultural harmony.
Racism is based on how you react to stereotypes. Prejudice (pre-judgment) is based on forming stereotypes and is completely natural and necessary. It's in our DNA. We HAVE to do it. It has it's roots as a survival mechanism. Fish do it. The animals of the wilderness do it. Look around you and you'll see examples of it everywhere, in every facet of life - not just white vs. black. It's pretty much instinct. At it's most basic level, we form stereotypes to protect ourselves. We will never fully escape it. If we had to go through a series of cognitive processes every time we were faced with something we'd be in trouble. It especially has it's implications in fight or flight scenarios. It's the very same reason why you don't use ATM's next to Liquor World in East Nashville at 2am. You have "pre-judged" it to be a situation worth avoiding. It does not evoke thoughs of safety and comfort. It's the reason why you'll feel the urge to scram if a shady looking black guy in a hoody approached you from behind while you were withdrawing $100 at the ATM next to Liquor World. I'd like to see the snooty Vanderbilt sociologists hypothesize their way out of that scenario without their adrenal glands pumping cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline in excess amounts.
Also, stereotypes are not created by the people who react by them, they originate from the frequent occurrence of something. They are created by the millions of people whose actions or qualities birth the stereotype and give it credibility. You'll always find some truth in stereotypes, but the stereotype won't always be true with everyone.
What makes us different than animals, is that we should be able to discern the finite bounds of stereotypes and realize the limitations of their usefulness. If you can't do that, then you're no better than animals. Only a fool would believe that a person's skin color or nationality determines their characteristics with 100% accuracy.
As far as the original subject goes and how it pertains to the Nashville music industry, I think we're talking about something that has very little effect on a musician's career. Musical ability seems to transcend race. I point to Charlie Pride as an example. Even the most racist, backwoods, white guy would have a hard time calling him the N-word. The guy has like 40 number one hits and his career started over 40 years ago (back when that bigoted country music was run by the KKK - haha)
While I do see discrimination in Nashville, very little if any of it is related to race. So, Mike and others who may be concerned with it perhaps being a real problem don't have much to worry about. Just play well and groove with others. 99.9% of the time, you'll fit right in.
I would recommend anyone who is concerned about the issues discussed here to at least take a moment and read this excerpt from a book by Larry Elder. Better yet, buy the book. Larry is a voice of reason. He is mostly Libertarian and calls it like he sees it. Check it out. http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0312301790/ref=sib_dp_pt#reader-link