Updated: Feb 12
Much to the chagrin of my children, I am a new fan of country music. Apparently, in my middle-aged years, I’ve learned to appreciate different genres. Perhaps 2020 and all of its discontent and disappointment led me to appreciate the relaxing and therapeutic twang of some of today’s hottest country stars.
And then came this— Country Music star Morgan Wallen was exposed as a “racist” when someone captured him on a cellphone video using a racial epithet. Mainstream media and social media outlets immediately responded. The Academy of Country Music banned him from their awards show, his contract was suspended and his playlists were removed from several country radio outlets.
As a result, Wallen has been invited to meet with Sheryl Guinn, Nashville NAACP chapter President: In a statement to ABC News, Guinn shared, "The comments made by Morgan Wallen are atrocious and wrong. This term has an ugly history and Morgan Wallen should be aware of that and work to eradicate its use. I offered to educate him on this matter, but it does not exonerate accountability on his part. He must be held responsible for his egregious comments."
While I understand the backlash and the anger Wallen‘s comments have created, I’d like to see him sit down with the NAACP of Nashville. We can’t possibly think he’s the only country singer to utter such derogatory comments. He can begin to make amends by educating himself and perhaps others about the pain and hurt that the N-word evokes for people of color.
Those who think this is not a big deal—will cite the frequent use of the word or variations of among people of color and in rap and hip hop music. But know this—-a group of people of color using a word to make it their own rather than give in to the generations of use that has made them feel less than, undervalued and less than human, is different than when a person, not of color, uses it in an angry rant. And, no, I don’t support the use of the N-word under any circumstance. I hate the word. I hate my own memories of the word.
Country singer Jimmie Allen, who is Black, posted on Twitter that he needed some time to reflect, "I'll take a few days to process before I reply or speak on anything. Logical thoughts for me takes time.” Eventually, Allen asserted, “It’s not always about what’s easiest...it’s about what is right. In order to receive forgiveness, we must give forgiveness.”
This is what needs to happen. While it is easy to lash out and denounce his actions and abandon him, how will that help Morgan Wallen see what he did was wrong? Many will say that this is the consequence of his actions. But the fact of the matter is that Morgan Wallen's record sales have increased incredibly since he’s been abandoned. Clearly, he has a following who don’t give a damn about what he says and if he could be a racist. If we decide to hate on Morgan Wallen, that hate will surely perpetuate more hate.
I love Jimmie Allen’s response. What needs to occur is that difficult conversations need to be had. It’s the only way to change behavior. Rather than condemn Morgan Wallen, let's seek to change his behavior. Seek to have a conversation. Seek to help him see the damage of that word and perhaps, gain an influential ally in the fight against racism.