On staying in your lane


I was listening to Pandora this morning and Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth (The there’s something happenin’ here song) came on. This got me thinking about the protests that I saw this morning (10/19/19) in London, the People’s Vote March. I think it’s fair to say that musicians – and artists in general – represent the emotional conscience of the community they’ve come out of. I think it’s also fair to include a lot of professional athletes and some of in their management structure, some NBA coaches more than anyone else there

Since, I grew up in the 80’s in a very white and conservative part of the country, I don’t think I really understood the general bias, in my community, against using music and award ceremony speeches as a valid platform of protest. I’m sad to say this generally stuck with me throughout my life. I don’t think I’m the only one that grew up in a community like mine who has this bias.

I think this “stay in your lane” approach to the arts in general and some professional athletes (I say some because white male athletes have more often been celebrated for speaking up than people of color or white women). Now, I know this isn’t anything ground breaking. If you look on #BlackTwitter and follow POC in general, you’ll see that this community has been well aware of this phenomenon. In fact, I would say I’m agreeing with their sentiment here. I believe this was a deliberate action to discredit these protests and minimize what these artists and athletes are saying. I think with the advent of television, specifically ramping up after the Vietnam war.

In one of the #1619Project’s stories there were clear cases where white slave owners intentionally prevented slaves from creating music and art. Because, those white slave owners knew the power of the arts. They knew that it’s easier to share information in song and get people’s emotionally invested by using music. This is why political campaigns do it now and why in movies music plays such an integral role in driving emotional response to scenes.

I think I first came aware of this during the Dixie Chick’s protest of George W. Bush’s wars. At the time, I was pretty firmly in the camp of staying in your lane, but I struggled with how to respond, because I agreed with them. I wasn’t a fan of their music and I knew it put them at huge professional risk. Especially, given that most of their audience supported the wars (country music y’all).

So this puts me in mind, how do we support these protesters. One, is obvious, add your voice to theirs. Tweet their message. Support politicians that support protesters. Go out and join a demonstration (this last one is the one I struggle with the most and it bothers me).

Second, is to protest organizations that support something you believe should be stopped. This can occur in a few different ways. First is to boycott that organization. So, I’m going to stop playing Blizzard games until they reverse their ban on the Hearthstones players that have protested for Hong Kong. In fact, I literally just uninstalled all the games. Furthermore, I won’t buy another game from the company until they change their protest policies.

Third, you can directly support artists/athletes/esports pros protesting something you believe should be protested. That can be in the form of buying whatever it is they create. You could donate to charities they support and/or are on boards of. You can also directly support them, if they have some sort of fundraising action going on. Although, if you’re going to be doing the last one, it may make more sense to provide that money directly to the people with less of a platform.

Another change, which I think is harder, is to help people understand why it’s important we allow our artists/athletes/esports pros to speak out. They have a platform that can amplify a cause. Some day that cause could be yours. If you hadn’t supported and, in fact, encouraged these people to speak out, then they might not be able to speak out for your cause.

As I said earlier, I’m not saying anything new that other people haven’t said before and probably said more eloquently. I’m simply adding my voice to that and working to unwind the stigma of speaking out against injustice no matter who you are. We need more protests songs, we need more protest art, we need more athletes to speak out against the horrors being committed all around us. Support them.

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