Does racism exist in rock music?

We see it often in comments: "Rock and metal accept everyone." And while we wish things were that simple — they just aren't. So, in an effort to encourage more understanding, we asked a group of Black rock musicians to discuss that topic and more in a new panel discussion moderated by rock and metal expert, TV presenter and radio host Sophie K.

The panel —which features Alice In Chains' William DuVall, FEVER 333's Jason Aalon Butler and Nova Twins' Amy Love and Georgia South — takes on everything from breaking down the idea of privilege and less obvious manifestations of racism to politics in music and explaining the insane obstacles Black women in rock face just to get to the starting line. You can watch the full discussion in the video toward the end of this post.

Racism isn't always obvious. That's why we wanted to foster a discussion between Black artists on the topic and help people understand how and where exists, so that as a community we can do better.

"If someone asks if the question does [racism] exist in rock: Well yeah, of course it does," DuVall said in response to the first point after pointing out that he's met very few people who admit to being racist. "It exists in all facets of the culture, it exists in all facets of American life and it exists in some form in virtually every country I’ve ever visited."

The Nova Twins agreed that the denial of racism is damaging and pointed out that you don't have to look hard to find racism in rock. Just take a look at how many people of color appear on festival bills.

"It’s so obvious, because you don’t you see much diversity in rock — and that is your main question: 'Why is it like that?'" South said. "You can’t just be like, ‘We accept everyone,’ because obviously not."

Her counterpart, Love, added that it's something they've experience personally throughout their career because gatekeepers see how they look and don't view them as a rock act. She says that people look at them and think they are R&B or pop artists, despite the fact that rock music's roots lie in Black American culture.

"When you’re looking at these bills —we’ve been on these bills, we’ve played the festivals, we’ve looked at the playlists and we aspire to be in certain places — and in our personal experiences we can’t fit on those bills because of the way we look, because Black people are not acknowledged for their contribution to rock music at all anyway. It’s been denied."

The FEVER 333's always vocal leader Jason Aalon Butler points out that people don't want to admit that racism is a part of rock culture because it goes against the genre's ideals of accepting misfits and being able to deny it is a point of having privilege.

"That inconveniences you. That makes you feel less alternative. That makes you feel less accepting, which is what you’ve wanted to believe. You founded rock music on alternative, subversive and lateral thought. That’s your privilege," he says.

"The thing is we don’t have a space in rock music where we feel comfortable," he later adds. "That’s by design! It’s not because Black people all of a sudden said, ‘You know what? We’re gonna stop messing with rock music and we’re gonna go create something else. Every time we have to evolve, every time we have to change what we do it’s because we have to. It’s out of necessity."

We encourage you to open your minds and hearts as you watch this conversation and make an effort to understand how racism exists in rock so that we can actually make a difference and move forward as a stronger, more accepting community.

Does Racism Exist in Rock? — A Discussion

Thank you to Sophie K for moderating this panel and to Amy, Georgia, William and Jason for taking the time to participate.

William DuVall has performed a series of live shows on StageIT as of late. His final performance of the series will air this evening (Sept. 4). Get details here

Nova Twins, who just won Best U.K. Breakthrough Band at the 2020 Heavy Music Awards, are promoting their latest single "Play Fair."

FEVER 333 released their debut EP 'Made An America', which features the Grammy-nominated track of the same name, in 2017. Earlier this year they hosted a livestream event with all proceeds benefitting the Minnesota Freedom Fund and Black Lives Matter. 

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