Musician in Hooded Fang, Phèdre, tonkapuma, and organizer/moderator of Music: Racism, Power & Privilege 101 panel.
Oh my god, I had these idealistic hopes about the panel. It was still good because of the conversation that got started, and some people might be thinking of the issues in a different way now.
But when I tried to conclude it with some small baby steps of what people can do [to make things better], the room was dead silent for, like, a minute. Then I bolted and went to the back room and started crying and crying. It was emotionally heavy.
The idea was good, but the realization that [such a panel] needed to happen was a harsh reality. When I wrote that Viet Cong article [for Exclaim!], I had the exact same feelings of being overwhelmed because, you know, this work takes a lot of time and is really annoying to do, and I’m not compensated for it. I just want to play music. But if I’m going to keep playing in this scene that’s so full of straight white men who don’t always get it, I either stop playing bass, which I don’t want to do, or play it in a different scene, which I also don’t want to do because I like playing rock music.
I feel better now. Afterwards there were a few white allies who realized they should be picking up some of the work. And a few older people of colour who have experienced all of this and either left the scene or started carving out their own niches offered up resources to pass along.
I don’t want to be seen as some anti-racist activist, especially because people have always been doing this work. There are tons of anti-racist activists out there, but they’re often working on broader social and academic levels. In the music community, there’s no authority figure, no governing bodies. You really have to take it upon yourself to learn.
The language [around these discussions] can be super-academic. It takes years to learn that language, to know what’s appropriate and feel comfortable using it.
I still have enough patience to hand-hold a little bit, but I know some people who are tired of doing that: “I’ve been doing this my whole life; it’s not my job [to educate].” They’re angry.
And other people are like, “Why are they so angry all the time?” I’m like, “Because it’s constantly in their face!” I’m okay with people being angry. You can’t take it personal.
Looking at yourself and questioning whether you’re racist is a heavy thing to deal with. But there’s no easy way to get to any new consciousness and open-mindedness. There will be obstacles and humps, and it might feel bad. This sounds clichéd and cheesy, but once you get over that, you’ll reach a new level of enlightenment and things will make more sense.
Take my bandmates, who are the sweetest, nicest guys and of course feminists. Once, on tour, we were in a Cologne hotel trying to watch a movie. I was like, “Look, again, one woman who talks about nothing!” And Daniel [Lee] goes, “I know! I know. You point it out all the time. There’s no women doing anything cool. I just want to watch the movie.”
I was like, “Whooooooa. I can’t even talk to you right now. I am done.”
But now he can barely watch any movies that are misogynist or racist. He can’t listen to the Weeknd. He’s like, “All he talks about is how high he is and all the bitches he gets to have.” He notices stuff before I do. So he’s at that level of consciousness now.
If you’re a good person and not an idiot, there’s no way you’re not going to eventually understand and internalize anti-discriminatory anything.