Friday, June 12, 2015

Morrissey talks about race again. No, it's not what you think.

Without even going near the High Court endorsed viewpoint that Morrissey Is Not A Racist Nor Ever Shall Be Called Such, it's clear Mozzer has a complicated worldview that probably can't be summed up comfortably in one word.

He's just called out Obama for acting like black lives don't matter:

Obama has mystified me because he doesn’t appear to support black people when they need it most… Ferguson being an obvious example. If Michael Brown had instead been one of Obama’s daughters, I don’t think Obama would be insisting that the nation support the so-called security forces! How can they be called security forces if they make the people feel insecure? Obama seems to be white inside. There is an obvious racial division in America and it’s exploding and Obama doesn’t ever support the innocent black people who are murdered by white police officers who are never held accountable. You would expect him to be more understanding of what it means to be black. But so far, he hasn’t been.​ There’s no point in continually saying that we must support the police when it is obvious to the entire world that the police in America are out of control.
How can this Morrissey then go to London and mutter about not hearing English accents in Knightsbridge and the gates to England "being flooded". It's almost as if (pop psychology alert) that having spent so much time in America, Morrissey finds it impossible to talk about Britain except through a character - part cartoon, part one-of-the-sleeves-of-a-Smiths-record - in the same way that, say, Lousie Mensch's attempts at providing commentary on American politics is powered by a belief that she should know about this sort of thing, but without enough context to clarify into something that isn't a bit embarrassing.

And in case you're thinking "well, this is Morrissey just saying something liberal to try and offset the view in some people's minds", that doesn't seem to be the case either; it feels thought-through. Compare this with what he has to say about racism in the music industry (American music industry, of course) where he's a bit sketchier:
I think rap has scared the American white establishment to death, mainly because it’s true. James Brown once sang “Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud”. No pop artist would ever be allowed to say that today … they’d be instantly dropped from the label. If Billie Holiday approached Capitol Records in 2015 they wouldn’t entertain her for a second. Also, yes, I feel that I bring my spirit to America, and I feel very much a part of it and I’ve played in most cities big or small. America has been so important to my musical life, and the audiences have always been incredible. I’ve always felt privileged even though I know I’ve been locked out of mainstream considerations. That’s life! Me and Billie Holiday, good company, at least.
It's a pity they didn't ask him to expand a bit on what he meant by "rap" - the quote here could have come from thirty years ago; does mainstream rap really still worry the establishment in the same way? It's hard to believe that tracks like Trap Queen are going to cause too many Bank of America execs to nervously run a finger round their collar. There's a sense of the "I'd imagine" about this part of the interview; like his descriptions of Britain and immigration in the fateful NME interview, it's as if he's generating a viewpoint based on half-impressions and fractured memories.

I think we're nowhere different from where we started - Morrissey has a complex intersection with questions of race and identity in the modern world.

And while you don't need Morrissey to point out that a lot of white American cops have a problem with a lot of Americans who aren't white, the fact that he is may say something about just how bad that situation has become.

1 comment:

Robin Carmody said...

Well, indeed.

As a culturally conservative socialist, Morrissey's views are bound to chime with those of the more culturally liberal socialists on some matters and jar wildly on others. It would be absurd if that were not the case.

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