Quoted: On Being Black and Invisible in Punk Rock

Afro Punk Girl

To like punk should not be like joining a whites-only club. But when you get involved in the “scene,” when you come in contact with other people who like punk, when you go to shows and do zines – you’re stepping neck-deep in an institution steeped in racism. It’s subtle. It’s not like I’m going to go to a Peechees show and find myself swimming in white power skinhead girls testing out a tree to lynch me on. It’s the kind of thing that I described earlier when talking about my appearance – really hard to put a finger on, yet there nonetheless. Maybe a group of “friends” will make some racist jokes and then laugh, because “it’s all in good fun.” Maybe when I comment on how I need to relax my hair they’ll go off on how black people smell funny. Or as I talk about how clipart depicting black people costs money whereas clipart depicting white people is widespread and free, they’ll launch into an hour long tirade about how black people should have to pay for their clip art because white people are better. Then they’ll call me a militant for disagreeing with them. 

Invisibility is paired with racism. Once I got here, they had insults waiting. The invisibility manifests in the fact that they don’t even know a black person could like punk. The racism illuminates the reality that, although I have that one thing in common with them, I am still an alien being. Maybe it’s because punk hasn’t been infiltrated by blacks for as long as some other forms of music, and they don’t know how to act around a black person who likes anything other than rap or R&B. Maybe all they know of black people are the stereotypes they’ve been force-fed by popular culture. You can’t turn on a TV today and see many black people doing anything but what white people think they’re supposed to. It’s like a caricature, and in all my encounters with people in the “scene,” they are operating off of this caricature – and I don’t fit it. They pay lip service to stopping racism yet it’s not racism when they say “a thousand black men at the bottom of the ocean is a good start” and then laugh. Saying “nigger” isn’t appropriate but nothing is said when I’m called, disparagingly, a Rastafarian because I have braids. Because we’re all fighting for the same cause, right? We all hate the government and we all love punk, and what does it matter that I feel isolated because I never see another black face and you’re constantly telling me I’m an aberration? This isn’t about “fuck punk.” It’s about fuck you and your racist attitudes. It’s about you waking up and realizing that you’re not some kind of revolutionary while you continue to support this institutionalized racism that has poisoned even your precious little punk rock community.

I am ostracized by the black community and I am only partially accepted by the punk rock community as a token of punk’s “fight against racism.” Even other people of color are more accepted in punk than blacks, simply because they are perceived as being “whiter.” Other people of color don’t have a pre-defined style of music that they should listen to; therefore it is more believable that they could like punk. I am in no way saying that racism doesn’t exist for these people of color in punk. I am simply saying that there is less of a musical stereotype for them, and that facilitates their acceptance.

~~Tasha Fierce, Black Invisibility and Racism in Punk Rock