On White People, Black Perfection, Country Music And America’s Demise

In the deal with the devil that someone made to allow the United States to survive 2020, white Americans aren’t allowed to make mistakes anymore. An American life lived under this condition will be abysmally stupid to witness and likely will not turn out well.

Even though our country’s laws retroactively state otherwise, America was built on a system where white supremacy is separate, but equal to Black depression. However, 2020 saw racial antagonism, globalization, the digital age, global warming, and Biblical levels of plague and pestilence finally gnaw away at these previously mentioned antiquated notions’ hold upon the country. Now, as America is in the throes of reparational fervor, those people once protected by white power’s traditional guiding hand over the nation are currently being strangled by the viselike grip of Black sadness that has yoked and choked the throats of African-Americans for 400 years.

As with all things dealing with America’s reparational struggle to resurrect itself, the best place to start is by taking a long, deep look into that most stereotypically American of sounds, styles, and cultures, country music.

In 2021, Kane Brown, a bi-racial, Chattanooga, Tennessee native, has paired with another Tennessee-based artist — white vocalist Chris Young — for the benignly positive and milquetoastly euphoric Billboard number-one hit song “Famous Friends,” a song celebrating their local pals who aren’t superstars to the world, but still beloved by the pop-country crooners. In the midst of understanding racial unity as a place where America should best begin to repair itself fundamentally, the song is not a powerful ballistic statement but rather a band-aid as a badge of courage on a nation’s metaphorical flesh, torn asunder.

This band-aid sits on American flesh that has bones once strengthened by the resolve that white male-defined spaces were — by right of gender, generational privilege, Eurasian heritage, and manifest destiny —always first, foremost, right, important, and protected. However, when the white cop kneeled the life out of the Black man, that all changed.

We’ve seen white men hang, shoot, dog-maim, immolate, assault and imprison African-Americans for 400 years. There’s something swift, shocking, and impersonal about those manners of death that make them less affecting, somehow. Comparatively, watching Derek Chauvin place 91 pounds of pressure on George Floyd’s back for nine uninterrupted minutes, as Floyd’s increasingly haggard breathing denoted his soul and life being expelled from his frame, is different. It’s so different that it changed the response and expectation of when and how we deal with issues of race in America moving forward.

In February 2021, Morgan Wallen — a white country singer whose soulful stylings had enraptured the genre at a time where its fanbase was more increasingly broader-based, diverse, and more mainstream-aimed than it had been in four decades — had advanced the genre back into the zeitgeist-defining position in American popular culture, uttered the n-word. Arguably, if stereotypically racially and culturally flawed country music was not at a point where it was flying Icarus-like close to the sun of America’s cultural zenith at a time where simultaneously, we were in the throes of previously mentioned racial antagonism, globalization, the digital age, global warming, and Biblical levels of plague and pestilence, it’d be different.

However, we were.

Wallen’s situation thus becomes the place wherein the new rules defining what will become of America become apparent. In a land where white power governs Black people, Black people are taught that you get only one opportunity, in all things at all times, to achieve perfection. Frustratingly, being anything less than perfect always affords you no change in your status, ever, in the country. However, in a land where white power is dismantling, white people must learn that the same perfection to which Black people have been forced to strive is now, for them, the only way allowed to live, peaceably, moving forward.

Recently, Bobby Bones, a notable white man in country music who — by right of his nationally syndicated country music radio program, mentorship role on American Idol, season-winning performance on Dancing with the Stars, two New York Times bestsellers, and 20 years of experience — is the “voice” of the genre, made statements via iHeartRadio regarding Wallen being deemed ineligible from winning an award at this year’s Country Music Association Award ceremony.

“If he is going to go away, come back and go ‘hey I feel good, I’ve some mistakes, I’ve made a big mistake. Let me try to move forward,’ he can’t win a single award, that just doesn’t seem like a fight that’s worth fighting,” Bones noted. “If I could say something to the CMA Board, don’t listen to vocal minority, listen to the silent majority, who’s going ‘let’s just have our show.’” As well, he added, “Let’s all just hold hands, the whole country music community and move on until we are told not to. If he comes out and does something else ridiculous, then we kind of have to re-evaluate and go well ok maybe this isn’t for him.”

Again, if we, as a nation, had not just barely survived racial antagonism, globalization, the digital age, global warming, and Biblical levels of plague and pestilence, it’d be different. However, we have.

In that regard, the idea of asking a “vocal minority” to be silenced is egregious. Moreover, look at Chauvin and Floyd as the moment that essentially changed the arc of America and hastened its demise. Thus, the idea of “vocal minorities” and “silent majorities” is completely different when seen with this analogy.

Yes, Bones later released a six-minute video in which he attempted to retreat from the perceived meaning of his statements and also tweeted, “Dang. Hate that this was misinterpreted by some. My goal is to be overly inclusive in country music. So def didn’t feel good to hear otherwise.” Even further, he added, “I am raised to believe a second chance is the best chance to teach others not to make the same mistake. And maybe I’m hoping for too much.”

Yes, Bobby, you’re hoping for too much. And yes, it’s not your fault. But America was once built upon a system that entrenched, preserved, protected, and enjoyed white male supremacy for nearly 250 years. And when that system falls, if you’re a hyper-visible white American male clearly protected — whether you’re always aware of your protection or not — that system’s undergirding will hurt or, worse, crush you in its undertow.

On every level, because of the sudden swiftness of America’s final decline, the trip to reparations that the country must face will be long, strange, and possibly unable to be completed in any of our lifetimes.

However, because they’re no longer relevant to the culturally guiding essence of the nation that remains, we’d probably be doing well to look past the Morgan Wallens of the world for solutions. Rather, a country artist like Black, female, smart, and empowered vocalist Mickey Guyton likely has offered some things to consider, healing-wise, in her Grammy-nominated anthem, “Black Like Me.”

It’s a hard life on easy street
Just white painted picket fences far as you can see
If you think we live in the land of the free
You should try to be black like me…

In the deal with the devil that someone made to allow the United States to survive 2020, white Americans aren’t allowed to make mistakes anymore. An American life lived under this condition will be abysmally stupid to witness and likely will not turn out well.

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