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Confused Country

Country singer Jason Aldean made headlines this week with racially insensitive content, but it is not a one-off for most artists within the genre. Today, most people are not old enough to remember a time when country music was not associated with politics or the republican party.

In the last 20 years or so, country music appears to have become significantly more political in its music, music videos and the behavior and comments of its artists. As America’s social-political environment becomes increasingly polarized, country music also appears to be more supportive of the republican party despite America’s changing demographic.

With all of this said, it may come as a surprise that country music was once non-political and for a time when it did involve politics, it was primarily in favor of the democratic party. Thanks to an NPR interview with Lester Feder, a music historian, it has come to light that country music only came to be politicized and supportive of the republican party during the Nixon administration.

In this interview, Feder reveals that republican candidates used country music to reach voters in their presidential campaigns in 1968 to appeal to lower and middle-class white voters.

Looking back at history, country music was initially boasted as the genre of choice for lower-class white people, some of which who identified as “rednecks.” In an article written by Lonnie Lee Hood for the Daily Yonder, rednecks were openly associated with unions and socialism as far back as the 1920s.

However, rednecks today are almost entirely associated with capitalism and conservative values, which are opposing lifestyles and exhibits how country music and this subculture have been co-opted by white elites for social, economic and political control over rednecks and country music.

Adding to this, there were more than 4,000 black people in America that were lynched primarily in small towns in the Jim Crow era by white residents. During this period there were also several affluent black communities that were intentionally destroyed by white residents in small towns by murdering, looting and burning those communities. This left black those black residents no choice but to flee in fear, without justice or restitution. Other black communities in small towns were chased away before their community was turned into lakes and city parks without permission or compensation.

Even today, a large majority of black people living in small towns similar to Russellville do not feel wholly safe from traumatic experiences involving white supremacy or some other injustice, due to the history and nature of their white counterparts that live in these small towns that have frequently not been held accountable for their actions and the frequency of horrific actions that continue to happen in small towns.

So, yes, the message within Jason Aldean’s song and accompanying music video have been seen and heard, and it is problematic on several layers. This song appears to be made as an anthem for anti-black sentiment in reaction to the Black Lives Matter Movement, which was only created as a means to decrease or eliminate the ongoing murder of black citizens by law enforcement that was often unnecessary and unjustified for moral and ethical reasons.

Although many of the officers involved were deemed justifiable in their murder of many black people over the centuries, it does not warrant a moral and ethical justification. The same crowd that often approved of police involved murders, were often the same crowd that waved confederate flags, lynched blacks, booed at Martin Luther King Jr, and owned slaves.

Aldean’s video and lyrics both encourage vigilante violence against black people for simply exercising their Constitutional rights to demand justice and equality. While many conservative politicians have tried to label black protestors as violent looters, the facts are that less than five percent of Black Lives Matter protests were violent or resulted in riots, with many of those turning violent being the result of undercover white supremacists or law enforcement officers.

Adding to the issue is the imagery of the Columbia, Tennessee courthouse where a black man was lynched in 1927 and the fact that like many country artists, Aldean is not a country singer born and raised in a small town. His hometown of Macon, Georgia has an estimated population of more than 150,00 residents as of 2020 according to the United States Census Bureau.

As we look at the attitude and behavior or other country music artists, Aldean’s content is not surprising. With examples involving Morgan Wallen who was caught on video using a racial slur. After the video of Wallen surfaced using the n-word, country fans came out in droves to support the singer, helping him to sell out shows on his tour, reinforcing the stereotype that country fans have a tendency to embrace white supremacy and racism.

Kid Rock waving a confederate flag, although he is not from the South. He is also known for supporting Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, despite the multiple racist comments and actions of Trump before and after his campaign. Rock was also the first artist to host Wallen for a performance three months after being caught using the nword on video.

Given the longer list of country music artists that have supported conservative politicians who target black citizens, blindly condemn black victims of police brutality, display confederate flags and even fail to condemn those who use racial slurs the outdated mindset of country artists and its fans will have to be held accountable one day.



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