Answering Anselmo – “Being a racist is not rebellious, it’s a historical defect.”

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Phil Anselmo was performing at the Dimebash event on 22nd January, a tribute to Pantera’s lead guitarist whose untimely death over ten years ago is still spoken with the heaviest of hearts. So, when Anselmo decided to react to all the emotion, the adrenaline and excitement of performing with a Nazi salute and a shouting of “white power,” that must have been pretty shocking. He claimed at first he had been making a joke about the white wine served to performers and said: “I fucking love everyone, I fucking loathe everyone, and that’s that. No apologies from me.” [1]

Well, no apologies from me either. Being a black, female metalhead, I am always on guard for people within our community that believe we are all so white and so hateful that it is okay to shout terms like “white power”. I’ll be honest, thankfully there is only one name on the list of metal frontmen/women I had witnessed racism from first-hand. That name is Philip Anselmo, a man whose surname is just as ethnic as my 10-letter Nigerian surname. He refused to take a stand against fans shouting “white power” at his gigs. He used the Confederate flag in the cover artwork for his band Superjoint Ritual. He once condemned rap artists for “pissing all over white culture.” [2] Don’t forget, Phil, the history of the doom metal that you play. Blues is the mother of doom metal, and blues originated in the African-American communities of the Deep South. Don’t bite the black hand that feeds you, Phil.

In the summer of 2014, I went to Bloodstock Festival and it was amazing. There were a couple of racist comments from two other festival-goers as I held the hand of my white boyfriend. That’s okay, I got upset but I can take it. I’ve almost come to expect it at a metal gig, have my guard up and cling onto the man I’m with because his skin colour protects me. They were idiots and clearly nobody had told them it wasn’t okay.

However, when Down headlined on the Friday, someone told these people it was okay to make these comments. Phil used the term ‘blackies’ to refer to black people. How many black people were there in the crowd? I don’t know, probably… three. The use of divisive and unfriendly language like this made me so uncomfortable and alienated. It would be wrong to say that everybody who stuck around and cheered him on was a racist. As metalheads, like any music fandom, we are followers and nobody, not even I – a likely 33.3% of the black population in attendance – was brave enough to say anything, walk away or jeer at him.

In light of this and the recent events at Dimebash, I was a bit annoyed that some people on Facebook felt the need to justify Anselmo’s words this time – almost apologising for them – because that is easier to do than admit there is a racism problem in metal. It may not be prominent (anymore), but it exists. The majority of metal fans don’t identify as racist, and aren’t generally – Anselmo doesn’t openly identify as a racist either. However, as Man Booker prize-winning Marlon James said, “we need to stop being non [racist], and start being anti [racist].” [3]

By continuing to cheer emphatically, ignore it and sing along to the next tune, we’re contributing to the view that it’s okay to be a massive racist because it’s metal and we don’t care. Metal is supposed to be different, right? Metal fans are, after all, still a minority. And we’re typically a very humorous bunch. We all laugh at the bands we deem inferior to our favourites, we bicker over whether black metal or death metal is the best, and we throw around racist slurs. We do all those things…right?

When the news first broke out about Anselmo’s antics, the backlash was slow because all I could see were Facebook comments. “Oh, it was probably a private joke.” “He was probably drunk or high.” “He’s probably not even really a racist.

… Pardon? What makes someone “really a racist?” That is entirely up to interpretation, but I can say for sure that you don’t have to physically assault someone to be a racist. Racism/prejudice/bigotry – pick your poison – is in your heart as much as it is in your fists. It is in the way you live your life, the jokes you have with your friends, and the things you say and do when you’ve had a drink. A man who is abusive when he is drunk is still an abuser when he is sober. Anselmo is from New Orleans, Louisiana – a city renowned for overcoming adversity and a very dark past [4] – and the state of Louisiana also has a very dark present. Louisiana is still called one of the most racist states in the US. [5] Anselmo, born and raised in New Orleans, is surely aware of this, and decides to better this by basically telling everyone that racism is okay. Great.

Sadly, yes, this year did begin with another racial slur from Anselmo, but it has presented us with a new togetherness and people are finally speaking out. The timeline of the powerful backlash against his comments is truly heart-warming and empowering. As a member of two minorities in the metal community, it is nice to see the majority standing up for the rights of the few. First off, Robb Flynn, thank you. I always knew I liked Machine Head. As I stated, we are followers, and all it took was a bold post from Robb Flynn [6] to finally tell the metal community that it does not make you a loser to speak out against racism. So we finally did. We know it is not okay to behave this way and forced Anselmo into a questionable apology. It is not ‘PC’ to condemn it. It is not “liberal.” It is not oversensitive. These are lazy responses from people who are afraid to address the issue at hand.

Robb Flynn has already shut down all those voices. So have Jen Majura, Sebastian Bach, Scott Ian, Metal Sucks… [7] the list thankfully goes on and is increasing. A happening like this should not be swept under the carpet. We still need to tackle the ideology that racism is justifiable, funny or should just be ignored. One racial slur every now and again is enough reason to take a stand.

We as the metal community are not idiots, and if there is any group that should not tolerate racism, it is ours. Our musical themes are political, adventurous, brave and straight up different. We are a rebellious bunch. Being a racist is not rebellious, it’s a historical defect. It is old news, it is boring, and will not be tolerated.

FOOTNOTES
1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVaUlXfvOHg&lc=z124vttarwy1v5son04cihtiry3dfhn4kco (comment using Housecore Records account)
2. In March 1995, during a Pantera show in Montréal.
3. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/video/2016/jan/13/marlon-james-are-you-racist-video
4. http://www.tureaud.com/Southern/new_orleans_history.htm
5. http://www.thetoptens.com/most-racists-states-us/
6. Flynn’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCBKzWg4WYo
7. Majura’s statement, Sebastian Bach’s tweet, Scott Ian interview, MetalSucks editorial.

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