Is indiepop racist?

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Is indiepop racist?

Post by poppyheads » Wed May 06, 2015 16:18

I've seen in many places this idea that indiepop (or, ugh, "twee") is inherently a white person's genre- this picture of pale kids singing about bucolic pastures and cups of tea. This, coupled with the fact that I've seen few persons of color playing indiepop- it's food for thought. What do you guys think?

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by tonieee » Wed May 06, 2015 17:25

I think you could say that it is and it is something that I have thought about too. I'd like to think that most indiepop fans/musicians are not racist or at least no more racist than non-indiepop white people. But the fact that the proportion of people of colour involved in indiepop is much less than that of the general population from which it comes indicates that there is something exclusionary about it - even if it is just a self perpetuating identity of whiteness.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by linus » Wed May 06, 2015 21:27

We live in a racist society. Indiepop doesn't exist in a bubble. Therefore, racist attitudes will exist as they do in the wider society. Perhaps not as overtly, or as frequently, at least many of us would hope not, but they occur. I guess the trick is to challenge racist attitudes/behaviours when confronted with them within your own 'community' and not to stick one's fingers in one's ears, go 'la la la' and pretend it's not happening because it interferes with one's own cosy world view.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by Amanda » Wed May 06, 2015 23:45

poppyheads wrote:indiepop (or, ugh, "twee") is inherently a white person's genre- this picture of pale kids singing about bucolic pastures and cups of tea.
The idea that bucolic pastures and cups of tea are inherently for white people is racist.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by poppyheads » Thu May 07, 2015 02:12

Amanda wrote:
poppyheads wrote:indiepop (or, ugh, "twee") is inherently a white person's genre- this picture of pale kids singing about bucolic pastures and cups of tea.
The idea that bucolic pastures and cups of tea are inherently for white people is racist.
Eh, never said that only white people are entitled to those things (unless you mean that I'm racist towards white people, which would be a laugh). I just meant that those ARE two stereotypically white things.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by islandhopper » Thu May 07, 2015 10:02

We certainly know that some people of colour have come up against racist elements before and have felt uncomfortable in certain indiepop crowds. That's the sad fact.
The "niceness" of the indiepop crowd may in fact be part of the problem with the notion we should all just get along quietly and peacefully getting in the way of actually confronting any prejudice head-on.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by humblebee » Thu May 07, 2015 12:46

Yer man fogsy, back up there, has pretty much nailed this.

I mean there are all sorts of things to consider. Music is complicated stuff, historically, socially, culturally. The assumption may not always be sound that 140 characters can represent a worldview. I've wondered whether the predominant whiteness of the movement is sometimes used as another stick with which to beat indiepop (not least by indiepop folk themselves, who can be curiously prone to a sort of self-loathing I've never really understood). But I've probably been guilty sometimes of that let's-not-rock-the-boat mentality - and it won't wash no more. Knowing what I now know about racism in indiepop, I'm grateful for the courage of its victims to communicate their experiences. Ultimately indiepop has a responsibility as a community to think about why some groups feel excluded by what we do, to do what we can to put that right, and to challenge and defeat racism where it exists.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by crystalball » Thu May 07, 2015 13:56

Speaking up and being actively inclusive and providing safe spaces for poc is the least we need to do. And listening. Always listening without a shred of defensiveness ever. I'm ashamed for the many times I've kept quiet in the past because I just didn't know what to say. Sod that. We need to look after each other in these horrible times and be humble and loud, all at the same time.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by Jay » Wed May 13, 2015 19:43

I'd find it very difficult to call indiepop racist. I've never heard a lyric in an indiepop song or read an interview from an indiepop performer or heard a comment from anyone at an indiepop gig claiming one race* is superior to another, or derogatory comments about another race (so long as we ignore Morrissey, who has managed to insult just about everyone on the planet). That's not to say it's never happened. We live, to some extent, in a racist society, so it would be a statistical anomaly if indiepop had never attracted anyone with a racist attitude, but it's certainly not rife.

I believe a more pertinent question would be, "Is indiepop inclusive?" The answer would have to be, clearly not. While we could all give examples of performers who are not white, the fact of the matter is the vast majority are white, as are the audience. The question then would be, "why?"

If it's because people from ethnic backgrounds other than white European feel unwelcome or even intimidated, then there's a huge problem that needs addressing. If it's because people simply don't like the music and see no relevance in it, then there's not a lot you can do. You can't make people like the music you create. Indiepop bands find it difficult enough to attract an audience of any ethnic background. Indiepop is a niche market, a particularly small one, and it may be it just does not appeal to people from many ethnic backgrounds. If we're being honest about it, it doesn't appeal to the vast majority of white people either.

If it is simply about taste, is it a problem? I went to a couple of Bhangra concerts in the 90s when I lived in Bradford. All the performers and the vast majority of the audience were of South Asian origin. I don't see that as a problem. Bhangra is an expression of culture, but so is indiepop. It's not a celebration of white working/middle class values, but it's a reflection of what we've grown up with. We may not be deeply spiritual, our food may be boring, our clothing drab, our weather grey, but we can't half knock out a good tune on a guitar. We've sold guitar pop around the world for the last 50 years, we're the best at it, so it's no surprise it holds such great appeal to a lot of us. It's old fashioned now, which is why the audience is small and why people from other cultures, who didn't have The Beatles or The Stones, see little relevance in it.

As far as confronting racism in indiepop goes, it's very difficult to confront something you never see. I've got a big mouth, I'm confrontational and I don't tend to let things slide. I'm a football supporter (well, I don't like football much, but I love Barnsley FC, my local club, if you can call that football). I've lost count of the number of times I've challenged people using racist language at football matches. Far less often these days, thankfully, because it's gradually disappearing, but I would if I heard it. I've never heard anything at an indiepop gig that would warrant me challenging it (other than people talking during songs, but that's not really in the same league).

*I don't like the word race. There's no such thing. We're all the same species. We're not a separate race if we have different coloured hair or different coloured eyes, nor should we be labelled as such depending on the melanin content of our skin, but I haven't the vocabulary to be able to drop it.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by RITH » Wed May 13, 2015 23:27

White people's sensibilities are usually very fragile when it comes to race. I feel that this is due to the two-sided belief that a racist is a bad person and a good person is not racist. This line of thinking causes that when a poc communicates to us that something that was said or done was experienced by them as racist we feel under attack, because we don't hear the true message ("What you said or did is racist") but what we often choose to hear instead is "You are a bad person." And then we just NEED to defend ourselves, right? We've sadly had multiple opportunities to witness this process in the past few years, here, and on some indiepop corners of Facebook. Many of us white people seem to believe that if we just don’t talk about or think about race, then we are not racist. Because we're good, well-meaning people. But every white person alive today benefits from white privilege in the 21st century. Our racist programming comes from people in our lives, from media, our school system, et cetera. Unlearning racism is an enormously difficult and long process. This doesn't necessarily make us bad people. It makes us people in need of education. So if someone calls us out on oppressive behaviour we should gratefully recognize it as a learning opportunity to grow as an anti-racist human being.

Is the above more true for indiepop as a scene? Probably not. But just as true? Yes, probably. But some of the posts in this thread so far made me pretty happy to be an indiepop fan tonight. I'm a white, middle-aged man.Indiepop lover. I'm racist too, trying very hard to unlearn.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by kofi » Thu May 14, 2015 11:57

Jay wrote:As far as confronting racism in indiepop goes, it's very difficult to confront something you never see.
RITH wrote:Many of us white people seem to believe that if we just don’t talk about or think about race, then we are not racist. Because we're good, well-meaning people. But every white person alive today benefits from white privilege in the 21st century. Our racist programming comes from people in our lives, from media, our school system, et cetera. Unlearning racism is an enormously difficult and long process. This doesn't necessarily make us bad people. It makes us people in need of education. So if someone calls us out on oppressive behaviour we should gratefully recognize it as a learning opportunity to grow as an anti-racist human being.
Is the above more true for indiepop as a scene? Probably not. But just as true? Yes, probably. I'm a white, middle-aged man.Indiepop lover. I'm racist too, trying very hard to unlearn.
I have a bit of a problem with the idea that to benefit from white privilege, which I think we can all agree white people do, in itself makes white people racist. That's an incredibly catch-all definition, and Minor Threat's "Guilty of Being White" would be its theme song. I don't believe that you're racist, Dennis. Is there an academic definition of racism here that I'm not aware of? Possibly, as I'm not academically educated. But in the everyday world the spectacle of white indie kids feeling bad about being white, and being indie, risks just making us look a bit daft, if terribly well meaning, and might just be helping some of us feel better without helping POC one bit. If for a whole swathe of historical/political reasons white people are all racist, then by definition white people will always be racist regardless of what they might try to do about it: there is no reparation resolution, there is no equal spread of all populations around the globe and there is no impending revolution which will somehow dialectically synthesise all such issues away.

Would this 'racism' pass Popper's falsification test? To even ask these questions is to be "defensive" according to the above, but would this definition of "defensiveness" pass the Popper test either?

It's entirely possible to construct a line of argument to the effect that predominantly-white indie/indiepop/britpop represents a retreat from modern multicultural life into reactionary nostalgia for an imagined white past - I think Neil Kulkarni and Simon Reynolds have written about this? - but it's also entirely possible to repudiate it as a load of bollocks.
crystalball wrote:Speaking up and being actively inclusive and providing safe spaces for poc is the least we need to do. And listening. Always listening without a shred of defensiveness ever. I'm ashamed for the many times I've kept quiet in the past because I just didn't know what to say. Sod that. We need to look after each other in these horrible times and be humble and loud, all at the same time.
I do absolutely agree with this: we should listen, and if there are things we can and should do around being more actively inclusive then let's do them. However, this is all pretty vague, and all I'm listening to here is white people talking about how white people feel. Look, I'm even doing it myself!

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by RITH » Thu May 14, 2015 13:21

I don't want to (or have the knowledge to) get too academic about how to define racists, but in my mind it looks something like this:

1st category: openly racist people who actively act and speak in a deliberatley racist manner and believe their race is superior to other races
2nd category: casually racist people, the kind of people who make (or laugh at) racist jokes and like to talk about how 'immigrants' are causing them harm in some way or another
3rd category: people who don't really think or care one way or the other but live savely and quietly in their own white bubble and mostly believe the white media and history books
4th category: people aware of their white privilege who are trying hard to be considerate of racial prejudice and actively willing to learn from people of colour's negative experiences

I'm quickly making it up while I'm writing, at the risk of indeed seeming a bit daft (and hasty), so I apologise for that. Obviously one could make up all kinds of other combined and in-between categories there as well, and also categories of even less racist people after that last one and more racist than the first. I just put this up there to illustrate that some days I feel like I'm in the 4th category, and other less conscious days I'm in the 3rd. I suspect this is true for most of us on here. (For Popper's sake, we could add a category of white people who have somehow grown up outside the racist influences of modern society, or the probably more likely to find exceptional few who have managed to truly unlearn all those things.)

I don't feel bad about being white. I can't help to be anything but white. I don't really feel personal guilt for what other white people do or did in the past. But I did grow up in a white society, with white media focusing on white problems, history books teaching me the white perspective, et cetera. I can't help but have many seeds of prejudice, misunderstanding, stereotypes, fear and even some kind of feeling of superiority planted inside my brain. I don't want it to be there, but it's there. I'm not sure if that's officially called 'racist'. This is not about me, of course. It probably doesn't really matter either, I suppose. What does matter is that it changes, that we all try hard to be as non-racist as possible, that for a start the awareness of it increases, for the benefit of nonwhite people and a fairer society.

Sorry, I know this thread was supposed to be about indiepop, specifically.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by kofi » Thu May 14, 2015 15:59

RITH wrote:I can't help but have many seeds of prejudice, misunderstanding, stereotypes, fear and even some kind of feeling of superiority planted inside my brain. I don't want it to be there, but it's there. I'm not sure if that's officially called 'racist'. It probably doesn't really matter either, I suppose. What does matter is that it changes, that we all try hard to be as non-racist as possible, that for a start the awareness of it increases, for the benefit of nonwhite people and a fairer society.
Of course, and I take your point here, and this is a much better argument, in that it gives examples. But this is precisely my point: I'm not sure if I agree that "some kind of superiority" must be implanted in our brains. But of course I could never prove that it isn't there, so we're back to Popper. Furthermore, I can't accept that your #4..
RITH wrote:4th category: people aware of their white privilege who are trying hard to be considerate of racial prejudice and actively willing to learn from people of colour's negative experiences.
..qualifies as racist - as it seems to me to be the very definition of anti-racist. What can we do to not be racist? Apparently nothing.

Your #3 (the 'if you're not part of the problem you're part of the solution' line) is disputable too. There are so many bubbles, and so many privileges to check - although of course the white/non-white privilege check is probably the biggest. Complacency and indifference are obviously problems but don't equal racism.

To make an analogy, let's look at this month's Tory-won UK election, where the problem was that there are so many kinds of Tories:

1) Members and supporters of the Tories.
2) Contingent Tory voters, whose support swings to the Tories according to circumstances.
3) Latent Tories, whose social and cultural conservatism allows the perpetuation of an atmosphere and attitudes that allow Tory support to thrive.
4) People who voted Green, Socialist or Liberal in marginal constituencies where in all likelihood only Labour could have beaten the Tories and so are arguably objectively Tory supporters.

Except that only 1) and 2) are actually Tories.

[edited for typo]

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by kofi » Thu May 14, 2015 17:28

I'm going to add a PS here, just because I'm aware how blunt things can sometimes sound on the internet. I agree with 99.99% of the above comments, and if indiepop or any other scene are experienced as exclusionary, as I've already said we should do whatever we can about that, which is obviously more important than semantics. I'd like to think all that goes without saying but I'm saying it just in case. I think we can respectfully agree to disagree on other stuff without compromising that.

Just a thought about actual POC in or around indiepop. When Skinny Girl Diet - who happen to all be mixed race - appeared on the scene (in their early DIY punk style) they were raved about, word spread, and they've gone on to get a record deal with Neneh Cherry. An Experiment On A Bird In the Air Pump - who happened to be Asian/mixed race - were similarly raved about a couple of years earlier and went on to record an album with Steve Albini. Big Joanie formed specifically as a self-described Black punk band to challenge the whiteness of the DIY indie/punk scene, had a rapturously received EP and got asked immediately to play loads of gigs including Indietracks. The Fish Police - who happen to be Black - had one of the best crowd reactions at this year's Odd Box Weekender. Now, perhaps it's tokenistic to even list these things, and admittedly if this was a quota it would still be below respective population percentages (especially as gigs take place in urban areas) and of course I have no idea how any of those bands' members felt about their experiences, and technically none of those bands are even indiepop, narrowly defined - but it doesn't seem to be the case - at least superficially - that POC are either discriminated against or suffer from prejudice. If it turns out that they are, we're all agreed that we should leave our cosy bubbles to listen and act like allies. But actually I think indiepop is largely ok, really. Where and when it's not I think we need concrete examples that we can act on.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by RITH » Sat May 16, 2015 17:44

kofi wrote:if indiepop or any other scene are experienced as exclusionary, as I've already said we should do whatever we can about that, which is obviously more important than semantics.

Agreed. Instead of trying to define racism or asking if we are racist or not I think we should put the effort in making it explicitly clear that everyone is welcome and that nonwhite people will not just be tolerated as long as they stay quiet, but will be actively and explicitly defended and supported when attacked or feel attacked, and listened to when they speak up.
kofi wrote:it doesn't seem to be the case - at least superficially - that POC are either discriminated against or suffer from prejudice. If it turns out that they are, we're all agreed that we should leave our cosy bubbles to listen and act like allies. But actually I think indiepop is largely ok, really. Where and when it's not I think we need concrete examples that we can act on.
While I don't disagree that indiepop is probably 'largely ok', it's also true that there have been some concrete examples in the recent past where 'indiepop' was not ok, and as a result some nonwhite people felt hurt and unsafe. So instead of waiting for concrete examples to surface and then act on them, I wonder if there's something more we can do as both individuals and as a community to make it clear to white people in advance that any kind of racist behaviour is unacceptable, and make it clear to nonwhite people that they will never stand alone when faced with what they experience as racist behahaviour. I'd love to see the indiepop community moving on from passively anti-racist to actively anti-racist, an explicitly welcoming and safe community for all. Even if we already think we are, it would be great if we could still send out that signal, and actively create a place where all people can join in conversation with a sense of guaranteed equality and safety. Any thoughts on how we can achieve this? Maybe it's a question for a new thread.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by Gordon » Sat May 16, 2015 22:04

Out of interest, how many people in this conversation would say they are a member of an ethnic minority group that faces discrimination?
Toot toot.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by Jay » Sun May 17, 2015 23:34

Gordon wrote:Out of interest, how many people in this conversation would say they are a member of an ethnic minority group that faces discrimination?
I'm from Barnsley, I live on a council estate, and the country has just voted in a Tory government for the next five years. It might not technically be discrimination, but round here, we're frightened for our lives.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by tonieee » Mon May 18, 2015 00:27

Jay wrote:
Gordon wrote:Out of interest, how many people in this conversation would say they are a member of an ethnic minority group that faces discrimination?
I'm from Barnsley, I live on a council estate, and the country has just voted in a Tory government for the next five years. It might not technically be discrimination, but round here, we're frightened for our lives.
I don't want diminish your fears (and I share them) but I'm sure people from minorities have more to fear especially Muslims given that David Cameron said that British society has been tolerant for too long with the focus on them.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by alongwaltz » Mon May 18, 2015 04:20

The number of black performers in indiepop is fairly limited but I'd say that's also true of rock, punk, folk, electronic, and many other genres.

However the number of indiepop artists I'm aware of who hail from places like Spain, Mexico, Peru, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines is far greater than any I can think of in other genres. So I hardly think it's accurate to claim that indiepop is whiter than any other guitar-driven genre.

That said, I grew up in arguably the most multicultural city on the planet but one which has practically no indiepop scene. So things likely look different to me than they might to others in other places.

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Re: Is indiepop racist?

Post by Jay » Wed May 20, 2015 00:27

tonieee wrote:]I don't want diminish your fears (and I share them) but I'm sure people from minorities have more to fear especially Muslims given that David Cameron said that British society has been tolerant for too long with the focus on them.
I was being some what facetious, although with a grounding of truth in the sentiment. When I spoke of the people 'round here', I was referring to the less well off in our society from all ethnic and religious backgrounds. I don't want to diminish the plight of minority groups in our country, but people on low incomes from all backgrounds have a lot to fear in the coming five years as our services are being taken away. Council cuts have barely even begun and that's little to do with government overspending and austerity, but the way the Tory government have changed the way local councils are funded.

It's time we stopped dividing ourselves along ethnic and religious lines and come to the realisation that it's the most vulnerable and financially insecure from all cultures that are paying for the mess the elite made of our economy. The Tory's were right, we are all in it together. Black or white; Muslim, Christian or Hindu; gay or straight, man or woman; if you're struggling to make ends meet on minimum wage or a zero hour contract, you're going to get fucked.

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