The Race Problem in Country Music Hasn’t Gone Away a Year After Morgan Wallen’s Scandal.


The Race Problem in Country Music Hasn’t Gone Away a Year After Morgan Wallen’s Scandal.

Things looked gloomy for country singer Morgan Wallen’s career after he was caught on camera uttering a racial slur in February of 2021.

The label suspended Wallen from his contract. A number of radio stations stopped playing his songs, and he was not invited to any award events or welcomed at any concerts where he performed.

Then, Wallen’s fans drove up record purchases.

Some still see very little improvement in terms of diversity a year later, and questions of race in country music remain minefields.

The Race Problem in Country Music Hasn't Gone Away a Year After Morgan Wallen's Scandal.

The revelation of Wallen’s use of the “n-word” occurred at a time when the United States was mourning the death of a Black man, George Floyd, at the hands of police in Minneapolis, and it sparked discussion about what has been seen as country music’s race problem.

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Yet this isn’t about a single musician or a single instance.

Wallen is said to have apologized, met with Black leaders to learn more, and donated as much as $500,000 to groups with Black leadership.

Since then, Wallen has embarked on a tour and performed at the Grand Ole Opry, which has caused further controversy and criticism that country music has progressed too swiftly.

Melinda Newman, Billboard’s Executive Editor for the West Coast and Nashville, told CNN, “The fans had the ultimate decision and they clearly decided they were Morgan Wallen fans,”

“There’s been a lot of talk that says, if you supported Morgan Wallen and continued listening to his music, you were racist and I don’t think it’s that easy,” she argued. I believe there is much more nuance to the situation.

The choice to listen to musicians who have committed atrocities is ultimately a personal one, she continued. But I think it’s a dangerous slope to label as racist everybody who keeps listening to Morgan Wallen.

It’s easy to relax when listening to country music.

As a genre, country music has a long history of being linked to the Confederate flag, which signifies Southern pride to some and America’s sad past of racism and slavery to others.

It Seems that There Is Still a Lot of Discrimination in The Country Music Community.

There is a “home for Black artists and Black fans of country, blues, folk, and Americana music” called The Black Opry, and its creator is simply known as “Holly G.”

She stated on CNN that “very surface level work, as far as diversity is concerned.” had been done in the country music industry.

The Race Problem in Country Music Hasn't Gone Away a Year After Morgan Wallen's Scandal.

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There are more people of color on the stage and in the audience, and more diverse playlists are available, but “You’ll see playlists that have more artists of color and there are a few more on the stage now, but the problem is that none of that makes the spaces any safer,” she added. If they continue to use tokenism as an excuse, nothing will be safer.

The internet hostility is more widely discussed than the problem of Black fans and performers feeling unsafe in the country space.

Mickey Guyton, a black country music superstar and the first Black woman to host the Academy of Country Music Awards, has been the target of such hatred.
Recently, Guyton shared a screenshot from a Twitter user who remarked, “We don’t want your kind in country music.” Guyton has been quite vocal about racism in country music.
“Black Like Me” which was nominated for a Grammy, is about racial injustice.

The Race Problem in Country Music Hasn't Gone Away a Year After Morgan Wallen's Scandal.

Recently, Guyton spoke with Texas Monthly on her journey to becoming the first Black woman to receive a Grammy nomination for best country solo performance for her moving song.

She explained her motivation: “I needed people, Black women specifically, to see me here—to know that there is a space for them,” “There is a tendency to stereotype Black women. The goal was to demonstrate to them that the container does not exist.”

A few weeks ago, Guyton sang the National Anthem during the Super Bowl.

“Our country is so divided right now that I wondered how I could perform this,” she told Texas Monthly before her Super Bowl show. “How can I inspire national pride and a sense of community among the people? My hope is that everything we’ve got going on will help everyone feel like they belong.”

In spite of the fact that country music is proud to hold up Guyton as an example of progress, Holly G told CNN that Guyton’s local community has not yet fully stood up for her.

She doesn’t think the business will change its ways because many country music listeners have already made their economic opinions about race clear.

She concluded that the industry was not interested in altering its current approach. “It makes money for them and it works for them.”

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Shirley Bryan
Shirley Bryan
Shirley is the Managing Editor at EC The Hub. Shirley joined EC The Hub in ​late 2016 in the newly created position of managing editor, designed to help the foundation bolster its editorial systems and capacity. She is responsible for overseeing the daily flow of content across EC The Hub’s digital channels, as well as editing, writing and managing content for EC The Hub’s website and blog.

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