Friday, July 25, 2008

listen to anti-racist music

It's naive to think a few well intended musicians can do something about a problem so widespread and endemic.

From The Clash to Bob Dylan, from Bob Marley to U2, from NOFX to Saul Williams to Nas, and from many others to many others--a lot of music with an anti-racist message gets listened to by a lot of white people. But it seems that few of these white people--white Americans, at least--ever get inspired by that kind of music to go out and actually DO anything against racism.

Is music a viable venue for fighting racism? Is Toby Young's cynicism about fighting racism with music justified, or do some musical efforts of this sort result in a reduction of racism and/or white supremacy?

Two songs toward further cerebral stimulation on this matter:

Johnny Cash
"White Girl"

Billy Bragg
(channeling Woody Guthrie)
"All You Fascists"


  1. There's an organization based in Los Angeles called "Oneness" that sponsors an annual songwriters summit that brings together heavy-hitters in the music industry for a 2-day session to write and produce anti-racist music. I have one of their CD's called "Songs of Hope and Unity" and it is awesome.

  2. Macon, as you know, I think you and your blog rock! I quibble with your Billy Bragg selection. The acoustic version of this song is much more aesthetically pleasing.

    Music is not a viable weapon in creating mass change that will destroy the oppression that strangles the people of the planet. It's no more, and no less, than one commodity in our planetary capitalist system.

  3. Hi - I just recently started reading your blog, and I'm loving it!

    I think that music can be a good medium for inspiring change in consciousness around racism, but the responsibility is not on the artist alone. Both the artist and the listener have to be actively involved in trying to end racism, particularly white artists singing about anti-racism and the white listeners, in their daily lives.

    There is a tendency to listen to anti-racist music, and believe that it is enough to address one's position in a racist society. There's no thinking process involved. It's a safe exercise of privilege.

  4. It is a well-known fact that white-power music is an important tool to recruit new members. I often get the impression that white supremacists know much better how to connect and to organize, also internationally to form their movement. Perhaps because they believe in what they do.

    But anti-racist or critical music can also be an important tool to make most of all young people aware that the happy world they live in isn't such a happy one for others. With that you can encourage students to speak up against injustice and to find a group to join, that everybody in society has a voice he/she can use. You can use such music for democratic education and respecting human rights.
    Political music also helps activists to connect with each other and therefore building a network, even if this happens quite slowly.

    blowing in the wind
    (graphic pictures)

    Michael Jackson Earth song

  5. I cannot be as disenchanted as Ortho. Music always has been and will be a powerful tool to move people.

    Can you sing "We Shall Overcome"? or "Lift Every Voice and Sing"?

    Our capitalistic society can't take the power of music...

    Check out Faithless' "Mass Destruction"

  6. Thanks roxie, that's powerful. I think "Bombs" is too.


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