[This post is a clumsy reaction to another at Writing Is Fighting. While I try and stay informed and educated about race issues, I had rarely engaged issues of race in metal beyond representations of POC metal musicians.]
I bet you already assumed I was white. I didn’t even have to point it out, but I just figured I’d clarify.
Of course, as a white woman, I get all kinds of privileges I didn’t earn. People don’t harass me for no reason. They don’t assume I’m a criminal. They don’t clutch their bags closer when I walk by. People don’t regard me with a suspicion they reserve for People of Color (POCs). There are a whole myriad of privileges I’m not even mentioning here. They would take too long to list.
However, one of the most important bits of privilege whiteness has conferred is not having to think about race. I don’t have to think about it because, as a white person, I don’t have a race – at least not in terms of what US terms as race or anything racialized. Those non-white POCs? THEY have a race. Not me.
Except, I do. Some people crossed on a boat from Europe for whatever reason and plunked themselves down in the US.
At metal shows, rarely do we think about race. A lot of the time, we’re just a bunch of white people hanging out and listening to angry loud music without having to think about people who are different in some way. And then, we see some POCs in the crowd. Well, sometimes we’re stunned.
“Holy crap, black people listen to metal, too? I thought all of them liked rap!”
Yeah, we all harbor ignorant assumptions sometimes. Whenever there’s a discussion about race, it’s never about us. We don’t have a race! We’ll just stay quiet and hope above hope nobody calls us racist. Ugh, that would just be the WORST! (But I’m not racist! I have lots of black friends!) [epic eyeroll]
Anyway, I don’t think about race as much as some POCs because I’m considered the norm. They’re considered the other. When people talk about blacks, or hispanics, or asians, my senses don’t heighten because I don’t think, “Oh shit, they’re talking about me again. What are they saying this time?”
Race doesn’t concern us white metal fans. So we continue to support Varg and NSBM, along with other bands who spout hateful messages.
As an ally, I don’t think I can really support those kinds of bands.
“It’s not about their politics, it’s about their music! Metal is not supposed to be political!”
Well, here’s the thing: Metal should be for anybody who wants to listen. If they like the music, why should anybody be hostile towards them?
“Yeah, but metal is made primarily by white people! If they want to listen to it, they’re going to have to deal!”
No. While it’s true that everyone is allowed to have their thoughts on the subject, and yes, white people have a lot of different views on race, it shouldn’t be ok for people to be hateful and racist. And it’s not ok for me to stand by and say nothing while others are making life uncomfortable for POCs who are just minding their own business at shows (and everywhere else).
Yeah, you can be fascinated by Varg and his ilk. You can like his music. But can we really stand around and not call people out on their shit? Can we feature him in magazines without denouncing his views? Should white metalheads just pass the buck on this one? Should we just hope someone else will say it?
For a group of people that sometimes delights in making those who don’t like metal squirm, we’re being really quiet about race (because, you know, it’s so touchy! And, like, SO not OUR problem!)
At shows, we get white-people-diversity: less than 20% POCs. The majority of white metal fans can just ignore the stuff that doesn’t affect them and move on.
Metal shows are some of the places I’ve felt most safe. There have been a few incidents where I’ve felt seriously threatened, but those are the exception. Imagine if that were the rule? Metalheads can be a community of tightly knit friends. When one undergoes hardship, I’ve seen metalheads rally support and organize all kinds of cool stuff that might not be possible in other groups. My motto has become “Metalheads look after our own”.
This might not be true for everyone, but I feel a heightened connection to a lot of people who like metal. The rest of the world tolerates this racist crap. We need to talk about it if we want metal shows to be welcoming places for folks who like metal, and not just the white ones.