Your Call for Inclusion Still Leaves Me Out
I’m going to level with you all. Diversity discussions are boring to me. Don’t you agree? They all whittle down to the same point. Diversity is important because it’s a form of confirmation that allows marginalized people to see that they exist and that their stories and names hold value. In media studies, the absence of representation is described as “symbolic annihilation.” If you don’t see it, they don’t exist. In any discussion regarding tours and festival lineups, people again and again make this same point: if they’re not visible, then people won’t know that they exist.
This is especially true of discussions about people of color — especially women of color — in alternative music. Those who aren’t actively seeking these voices will simply choose to believe they don’t exist, or can count the artists they know on one hand. (And to imply the average person can name five artists is generous.)
When we discuss the marginalization of women in the music industry, too often do we leave out women of color, especially black women, who largely lead conversations on diversity in a wider scale.
As the scene continues to push and strive to be more inclusive, people of color are often mentioned as an afterthought rather than prioritized. It’s absolutely important that women’s voices are heard and their concerns and needs to exist in a space that is largely male are met. But when the concerns of one type of women are given more weight than others, something’s gotta give.
Take a moment to look at discussions of representation within the scene, and take note of what you see. Who is given the floor in these discussions? Whose voices are being prioritized in this discussion?
It’s telling that many voices within the scene who vocally support movements such as Black Lives Matter and support progressive ideals as an ally fail to come up with names of people within their own scene who are of those identities. It says to people of those identities that we are intangible ideas that are outside of their bubble, when we also go to shows, buy music, and fill almost every role within the industry just the same. It’s telling that our stories of microaggressions and blatant racism are ignored or swept under the table. Speaking for myself, the ways in which people have interacted with me and reacted to my presence have largely been racialized sexism and sexualized racism, because of, you know. Intersectional identity.
So when writers put pen to paper or bands decide to speak out in support of diversity and inclusion, it’s not just telling when all they can name, book, tour with, or hire to speak are white. It’s racist.
In this current political moment, it’s more important than ever to be about intersectionality. Not just in terms of race and gender, but with care to sexuality, accessibility, class, and other ways that people face oppression. Speaking out is absolutely important, but doing so is doing just the bare minimum. In 2017, it’s time for allies to do more.
Support artists of color, in every sense of the word. From photographers, graphic designers, to those who take the stage, it’s time to prioritize underrepresented voices in this industry.
Because they exist. So go find them.