The only thing more obnoxious than a racist comment is the racist commenter’s apology for said statement because the “apology” always includes everything except, “I’m sorry for being racist.”
It’s always, “I misspoke,” or, “I’m not racist, I just said something stupid,” or, “I’m sorry my wording sounded racist, but that was not my intent,” or, “Everyone who knows me knows I don’t have a racist bone in my body.” (I honestly feel bad for all of the racist skeletons roaming the Earth wondering why their owners refuse to claim them.)
Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner has been removed from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation’s board of directors because he said a racist and sexist thing, but to let him tell it, his “badly chosen words” are what caused the harm, not his racism.
During an interview with the New York Times, Wenner was asked about a book he wrote, titled The Masters, that features interviews with Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Jerry Garcia and Pete Townsend—all of whom are notably white and male. So, Wenner was asked why he only included white men in his book, and he generally gave the same answer Tim Burton did while explaining why all of his films are so overwhelmingly Caucasian. Only Wenner arguably managed to be even more condescending toward the people he excluded.
Asked by the Times why he confined the book’s interviews to white males, Wenner said “it just fell together that way.”
He then said that none of the women he considered were “as articulate enough on this intellectual level.”
He added that the people he did interview were selected from his personal interests and love of them, and “were the kind of philosophers of rock.”
Wenner also used the “articulate” argument in his explanation on why he excluded Black artists.
“Of Black artists — you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right? I suppose when you use a word as broad as ‘masters,’ the fault is using that word. Maybe Marvin Gaye, or Curtis Mayfield? I mean, they just didn’t articulate at that level.”
Before we get into Wenner’s apology, let’s start with his first lie: “It just fell together that way.”
I’ve written before about how the historic overwhelming whiteness of the entertainment industry is no accident. It’s the result of white people needing to see themselves on screen and being appeased by the exclusively white gatekeepers of American pop culture who also view whiteness as the default. White people complain about “forced diversity,” but the forced whiteness that has existed throughout history is the “race pandering” they continue to refuse to acknowledge.
So, when a white man only believes the legacies of white men, the most catered to and overwhelmingly represented demographic in American entertainment history, are worth cataloging, that’s not just the way it “fell together”—that’s the way it is by design.
I mean, come on—Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Curtis Mayfield “didn’t articulate” at the level of Bono and Mick Jagger? No, that’s a white man’s opinion if I’ve ever heard one.
Actually, what does “didn’t articulate” even mean in this context? It almost sounds like Wenner hit us with the opposite of, “You speak so well,” which is inherently racist in itself, but whatever. Either way, it appears that Wenner was using the word “articulate” incorrectly, which is pretty inarticulate of him.
What’s also interesting is that even when Wenner gives up a few examples of Black recording artists who are at least technically “genius,” he excludes Black women, which is wild considering the legacy of a certain Black woman who is widely considered the “Godmother of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
Someone tell Wenner that Rosetta Tharpe would like a word.
OK, now let’s get into Wenner’s old crusty apology.
“In my interview with The New York Times I made comments that diminished the contributions, genius and impact of Black and women artists and I apologize wholeheartedly for those remarks,” Wenner wrote. “The Masters is a collection of interviews I’ve done over the years that seemed to me to best represent an idea of rock ’n’ roll’s impact on my world; they were not meant to represent the whole of music and its diverse and important originators but to reflect the high points of my career and interviews I felt illustrated the breadth and experience in that career. They don’t reflect my appreciation and admiration for myriad totemic, world-changing artists whose music and ideas I revere and will celebrate and promote as long as I live. I totally understand the inflammatory nature of badly chosen words and deeply apologize and accept the consequences.”
If Wenner’s book was “not meant to represent the whole of music and its diverse and important originators,” he would have said something along those lines the first time he was asked why The Masters was so white male-exclusive—but that’s not what he said. Instead, he implied that white men just so happened to be the only ones he felt were on a high enough “level” to be worth his time. It’s not the wording that is racist and/or sexist, it’s the sentiment.
It’s always the sentiment.
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