Country music's race issue is no surprise

Article Image

Rising country music star Morgan Wallen is facing backlash for allegedly using a racial slur in a video published by TMZ. HLN's Melissa Knowles reports. CNN has repeatedly sought comment from representatives for Wallen.

Posted: Feb 5, 2021 7:21 AM
Updated: Feb 5, 2021 7:21 AM

Following a mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas in 2017, there was a great deal of discussion about the culture around the music genre and guns.

Now may be the time for the same regarding racism.

In the wake of country star Morgan Wallen facing backlash following a reported video of him using a racial slur, debate has sprung up regarding race and country music.

"I'm embarrassed and sorry. I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back," Wallen said in a statement. "There are no excuses to use this type of language, ever. I want to sincerely apologize for using the word. I promise to do better."

"How do you change it?" guitarist Tomi Martin, who is Black and has worked extensively with country artists, asked. "That's a good question because this is the way country music has always been."

It's a genre that has a long history of being associated with racism and its symbols.

The good ole boy with a Confederate flag has shown up in everything from album covers to music videos.

Much like the contested monuments to Confederate heroes, those who embrace country music could argue that it's more about pride in Southern roots than racism.

Not that there haven't been and aren't Black artists in the genre.

From the late Charley Pride to Darius Rucker and Kane Brown, the genre is more diverse than history sometimes allows.

"I think it's more than just an image of country music — it's been sold as the story of country music," British country singer Yola told Rolling Stone last year. "This myth that won't die of it being 'the white man's blues' is both a good origin story, and kind of erases a lot of what else went into making that origin."

Martin, who has worked with everyone from Michael Jackson to Madonna, as well as country artists like Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Jamie Floyd, told CNN he believes country music was founded in the Confederacy, so true change could be slow in coming.

"That's Nashville," he said. "But if you go far enough back some of the better guitar players and artists were raised listening to old blues players, raised listening to black people making music."

The the ongoing racial reckoning following George Floyd's death at the hands of police may be why there has been quick action against Wallen.

The singer-songwriter who last year won the Country Music Association Awards new artist of the year award and best new country artist at the iHeartRadio Music Awards has had his music yanked by CMT platforms, iHeartMedia, and other radio stations across the country.

Wallen's contract has been "suspended indefinitely" by his record label, despite his apology that seemed to follow a playbook of contrition used by other White celebrities that have found themselves in similar circumstances.

"It's like a mental illness -- they can't help it," cultural critic Wes Jackson told CNN of Wallen and other celebrities who have been caught using the N-word. "This White privilege kicks in and for a moment they lose their mind. It's almost like getting drunk. They wake up the next day and they feel so terrible."

Some in country music have signaled that they are no longer content to be associated with a painful history of racism.

The Dixie Chicks last year dropped the "Dixie" in their name and the group Lady Antebellum became "Lady A" (though their following legal battle with a Black artist already named "Lady A" undercut that move in some fans minds).

When rapper Little Nas X was kicked off the country charts in 2019 with his viral hybrid rap-country song "Old Town Road," country star Billy Ray Cyrus stepped up to perform on the remix which then became an award-winning smash hit, including snagging Grammys for best pop duo/group performance and best music video.

But there appears to be some hope that the industry can and will do better.

Country singer/songwriter Stella Parton tweeted Wednesday, "Country Music has always been racist, misogynistic and homophobic. Don't believe them if they say otherwise."

"Morgan Wallen has been called out and it's high time the Country Music Industry has taken a stand against this type of behavior," the younger sister of Dolly Parton also tweeted. "Now, if we could get them to stand up against sexual abuse! Just sayin' y'all."

Terre Haute
Partly Cloudy
51° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 51°
Robinson
Mostly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 44°
Indianapolis/Eagle Creek
Cloudy
49° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 44°
Paris
Partly Cloudy
51° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 51°
Mattoon/Charleston
Partly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 52°
Terre Haute
Partly Cloudy
51° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 51°
Terre Haute
Partly Cloudy
51° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 51°
Sunny with a Cold Wind
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

The wetlands bill is headed to Holcomb's desk

Image

Business "sews" it's roots deeper during pandemic

Image

Thursday Morning Weather Update

Image

Northview golf

Image

ISU Soccer

Image

Caitlyn Newton

Image

ISU Baseball

Image

National Public Safety Telecommunicators week honors 911 dispatchers

Image

Terre Haute is one of two cities in the nation designated a 'Runner Friendly Community'

Image

Registration is now open for YMCA summer camps

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1288844

Reported Deaths: 23865
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook5163999792
DuPage855231244
Will70961955
Lake64047962
Kane54919750
Winnebago30606457
Madison29676513
St. Clair27035500
McHenry26618277
Peoria20652277
Champaign19604136
Sangamon17522229
McLean16577169
Tazewell15617253
Rock Island14137303
Kankakee13369196
Kendall1216290
LaSalle11634228
Macon10130189
DeKalb9120118
Vermilion9003125
Adams8141116
Williamson7179125
Whiteside6738162
Boone630871
Ogle569578
Clinton569390
Grundy557971
Coles549294
Knox5258136
Jackson483363
Henry467261
Effingham466471
Macoupin456681
Livingston455083
Stephenson446379
Marion4379114
Woodford432962
Franklin431470
Monroe430190
Jefferson4129118
Randolph408384
Lee391449
Morgan373979
Montgomery363772
Logan359856
Fulton357250
Bureau351279
Christian348971
Perry312959
Fayette312754
Iroquois288964
Jersey260448
Douglas254135
McDonough252742
Saline248053
Lawrence238625
Shelby224137
Union222840
Crawford208825
Bond196024
Cass194424
Pike175551
Clark175032
Jo Daviess174624
Warren172646
Wayne172451
Hancock171730
Richland170840
Carroll169436
Ford168346
White166226
Edgar165839
Washington162525
Moultrie156025
Clay147042
Greene142032
Piatt141014
Mason139941
Johnson138614
De Witt136823
Mercer134633
Wabash134112
Massac130939
Cumberland127819
Menard117511
Jasper114017
Marshall96617
Hamilton81815
Schuyler6975
Brown6846
Pulaski6787
Stark60123
Edwards54912
Henderson51914
Calhoun5072
Scott4671
Alexander46210
Gallatin4534
Putnam4403
Hardin36512
Pope3053
Out of IL10
Unassigned02295

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 701971

Reported Deaths: 13187
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion958051716
Lake51105939
Allen38867670
Hamilton34212404
St. Joseph33638539
Elkhart27021431
Vanderburgh22016393
Tippecanoe21602212
Johnson17408373
Porter17157297
Hendricks16711310
Clark12640190
Madison12287337
Vigo12139244
Monroe11336166
LaPorte10760204
Delaware10288184
Howard9606211
Kosciusko9051113
Hancock7922139
Bartholomew7839153
Warrick7671155
Floyd7533176
Wayne6871198
Grant6755168
Boone6517100
Morgan6362138
Dubois6068117
Marshall5743108
Dearborn566975
Cass5668102
Henry5558100
Noble536983
Jackson491869
Shelby476895
Lawrence4324118
Gibson426889
Harrison426070
Montgomery416286
Clinton415053
DeKalb405483
Huntington376480
Whitley374939
Miami371365
Knox364889
Steuben361357
Putnam351760
Wabash345877
Jasper344846
Adams337652
Ripley333268
Jefferson310779
White307154
Daviess288699
Wells284780
Decatur278592
Fayette276962
Greene269985
Posey268133
Scott259853
Clay252044
LaGrange250970
Randolph234380
Washington230329
Spencer227431
Jennings224447
Fountain207445
Sullivan207342
Starke201152
Owen191456
Fulton190439
Jay185529
Carroll185220
Perry179136
Orange176253
Rush170224
Vermillion165643
Franklin165135
Tipton160843
Parke143716
Blackford132631
Pike130034
Pulaski112945
Newton102834
Brown99340
Crawford96914
Benton95613
Martin82215
Warren78715
Switzerland7698
Union69510
Ohio55511
Unassigned0405