On the Topic of Race

LZ Granderson recently wrote an article titled, “Why can’t country music deal with race?” Once again, I’d like to note how amazed I am at LZ’s writing style and use of rhetoric; it’s amazing.

In this article he describes how much he loves country music, and how the industry has touched on many important social and political issues, particularly the trials of war. As a black man growing up in Detroit, he admits that it’s not the norm for him to listen or appreciate country music, but it just appeals to him on a deeper level than catchy lyrics and a recognizable beat. He states, “My family is from rural Mississippi and I spent a lot of my childhood playing on the dirt roads south of Greenwood. I have an uncle who has yet to recover from his time in Vietnam. So I know full well the world many country artists sing about: the watering holes, eating fried chicken, going to church, God, war. When Rodney Atkins sings, “these are my people” I think: “yes they are.”

Familiarizing himself with the “usual” type of country music audience provides his later argument with a type of legitimacy and authority, a rhetorical strategy that he’s clearly mastered. LZ goes on to argue that too few country music artists delve into the topic of race, an issue that the has a strong history and continues in the South (an area of the country where this type of music is most popular). A perfect example of how race and country music should fit together like puzzle pieces is that the Civil Rights Movement first began in the home of country music.

It is stated that perhaps the absence of race in country music is due to the artist being fearful of saying something overly controversial (thereby alienating some of its fan base or catching unwanted, negative criticism). However, “…the truth is that not talking about the unpleasant parts of life in the country do not make them go away.” To this I completely agree. As it is with politics and other societal issues, ignoring the problem is not a solution and it prevents there ever being one.

Also, “It allows others to tell the story for you.” Similarly, if you want to shape an issue with your own perspective and shape people’s opinions about a topic such as race in America, it is best for you to acknowledge it. Singing country songs that deal with political issues, the trials of war, social struggles, or personal battles allows those artists to tell the story and persuades their audience to see their point of view. This would be the same for race, perhaps highlighting the still present issues of racism or prejudice in the South. Yet, by ignoring this topic completely, those who can articulate through song and have a large fan base listening to their lyrics pass up this great opportunity to shed light on an important issue in contemporary America.

LZ also states that acknowledging racism does not perpetuate it, rather it exposes it. Of course, if a popular music group sang about how great racism is, this would be counterintuitive to LZ’s claim. (I think this group would be completely ousted from the industry all together, however, and would quickly lose all credibility and fans). But singing about racism in the proper light, with respect to its current presence in society and damaging effects to the country exposes it and helps provide a solution. If anything, it brings awareness… which then leads to solutions.

Concluding his article, LZ beautifully articulates his overall argument in very few words. This is something I’ve grown to appreciate and love about his writing style, and it is a perfect example of how rhetoric can be simply, but effective.

“After all, racism is ugly.

It’s OK to say so.

It’s OK to sing so.”

 

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