Make Music Not Hate

By now, just about everybody who has ever heard of MTV knows about what happened last Sunday 9/13 at the Video Music Awards — better known as the VMAs — when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s speech to give a shout-out to Beyonce. There is a lot of blog talk about whether Kanye did what he did because he is prejudiced against white people. Many people are asking whether Kanye was motivated by racial differences since Taylor is white and Beyonce and Kanye are both black. But, what about how this incident suggests that sexism, which is too often prevalent in parts of the music industry and society-at-large, may have played a role? Since women are generally physically weaker than men, and their needs socially accepted as less important, the end result is that they often get pushed around. Although it is difficult to draw definite conclusions, one cannot help but wonder if this is what what we saw happen at Sunday’s VMAs.

Is there also a racial element to Kanye’s motives? Based upon some of his past comments, I think he could use some healing in that area; and since that is doable, let’s not give up on him. Let’s not hate Kanye.

I think there is something else we should talk about, which is a lack of appreciation for country music by many followers of hip hop — something we all know also occurs robustly in the reverse. This is a two-way street. Yet, where hip hop and country music are concerned, they are not just a combination of melody and harmony, but reflective of culture. Both are uniquely American, and yet, seem so disparate from each other. But who ever said somebody cannot like both hip hop and country music? Somehow it became a self-perpetuating part of how some people do things without even thinking about it. It feels natural to them to like only one or the other, but not both. To me, that makes as much sense as having to choose between Chinese food and Italian food. I love both. I don’t want to limit my choices, so why not do the same with music?

Music should bring people together, not divide them.

Kanye’s behavior at the VMAs presents us with an interesting opportunity. Rather than bemoan his behavior, scold him, and then go back to business as usual (and I do mean business), which is how things are usually done, let’s get proactive. Let’s prevent hate already. What we need is to bring lovers of hip hop and country music together in a way where they stop and say to each other, “You know what? I changed my mind about you. You’re cool!” We can do this. It’s not hard. It just takes leadership, creativity, and the will to do so.

It is no secret that social tensions in this country have increased this past year. People are polarizing more and more. Fear is high in a bad economy, which often manifests itself among racial lines. Tensions are up, and therefore, so too is domestic violence because when some men are upset, who do they take their problems out on? Family.

See how this works? The economy goes down, social tensions go up, people blame “the other” for their problems, and the result is that women get pushed around … and worse. Furthermore, when tensions go up, Americans take their problems out on each other. It’s comprehensive familial abuse. So, rather than blame the people who get caught up in tension and frustration, let’s actually do something that brings tangible results by using music as a tool for goodness. Let’s use Kanye’s behavior as a catalyst for a more cooperative future.

Think of what happened at the VMAs as manure, from which we could grow an amazing garden. The VMAs gave us an opportunity to encourage … persuade … insist that the hip hop and country music industries bring those who love their music together to bridge the gaps that divide too many of them. This work is crucial because of how these divisions play out in mainstream society.

If music is anything, it’s creative. It’s the ability to make something memorable out of nothing. We don’t need to despair because the music industry has the power to change people’s minds and hearts. Now that it is Woodstock’s fortieth anniversary, the time has come for us to make beautiful music together. The time is now to prevent hate.

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