Excerpt: “Why You Listening To That White Sh-t?”

Writing this book, I found other black women who had felt rejected by friends, family members, or their communities because of their musical preferences.

At one point, I distributed a mass questionnaire, and nearly three-quarters of the replies described negative reactions to listening to heavy metal.

Many of the replies were predictable: “Many people say the style of music I like isn’t really music, it’s just loud noise. Or that I’m not black because I like rock or punk music.”

Others were encouraging: “Especially when I say I like rock, they think it’s like devil or white music. I find it hilarious. I revel in my musical tastes and find audio joy wherever I can.”

Some were unfortunate: “When I was younger, I was criticized for listening to ‘white’ music and told I was weird and [that] there was something wrong with me for being a black girl listening to rock ’n’ roll … [Then] I learned that black folks actually created it.”

And many stories were downright infuriating: “Especially when I was in my teens and twenties, comments from some family and friends if I was listening to rock or punk music were like: ‘Why you listening to that white sh-t?’ I once dated a white guy who grew up in a black neighborhood, and was trying to be ‘down,’ and he yelled at me for listening to Led Zeppelin: ‘Don’t you listen to any black music? Why do you listen to that white music for?’ — the funniest thing I ever heard. Now that I’m in my forties, I don’t tend to associate with anyone who is so narrow-minded about me or my tastes in life.’

From “What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman’s Life And Liberation In Heavy Metal” by Laina Dawes [Courtesy Bazillion Points Books, 2012. ]

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

    This black boy LOVES rock and roll, and listens to it a lot (the Beatles and a ton of other 60’s, 70’s ,and 80’s groups/artists are my favorites), as well as a lot of current alternative rock and alternative rock from the early-to-mid-’90’s (I wore out my copy of Nirvana’s Nevermind album like you wouldn’t believe.) I do also listen to R&B and urban as well, although my sister has outdone me in that department-she has more curent stuff than I do.

    All I’ll say is, if you are Afro-American (or Afro-Canadian, like myself) and you want to listen to rock, go ahead and do so; don’t let anybody define you musically.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000709864513 Michelle Kirkwood

    I posted a comment about this on here yesterday, but don’t know what the hell happened to it—I’ll most definitely get this book,mainly because i went through some similar issues being a young black female rock ‘n roll,ska-music loving, pop music lover in suburban Detroit in the late ’80’s/early ’90’s. Got into alternative music via the local college radio stations,which were the ONLY station paying it at the time.. Rock ‘n roll has been so crystallized by the media as something that only white people are allowed to play,write and sing,mainly because a lot of folks–unfortunately especially black folks, aren’t aware of rock’s black roots.

    I would think it’s a lot easier to be a black rock fan now, simply because there’s so much access to so much more music history and information than when I was in school back in the day,so if folks don’t know about rock’s true history, they have no excuse to say they can’t out about it,because the access to that info is just one click away. Back in the day, if you wanted to find out about groups below/out of the mainstream, you had to read daily issues of either Detroit’s own rock mag CREEM,or issues of SPIN. Sure,you could check out ROLLING STONE, but they were definitely (and still are) more geared toward major coverage of mainstream acts. Or,you could buy a book called Trouser Press Alternative Guide, which was about nothing BUT completely obscure totally beneath the radar acts, That’s how I discovered old-school British punk-rock acts like X-Ray Spex and Crass and a whole bunch of other acts—by reading the book, then going to the record store and buying a cassette or record of said act,based on whatever act sounded the most interesting as described by the book. Also, Richie Unterburger’s UNSUNG ROCK ‘N ROLL HEROES, plus URBAN SPACEMEN & WAYFARING SEAFARERS are also a good spotlight on unknown acts (yeah,they’re old books, and I’m gonna try & get them back myself—it’s somebody else’s fault I lost the ones I had,dang it).

    At least young black rock ‘n rollers have got the Afropunk site to let them know they’re not alone in liking rock, like I felt during the ’80’s while listening to Ozzy and practically every other heavy metal group known to man (and women) at the time (as far as I’m concerned,Jimi Hendrix was the original heavy metal artist,period).

    • lynn

      Ditto. I’m a big rock fan from way back when I was a little kid in the 70s. Awesome time for music as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who etc were regularly played on the radio. Discovered punk in the early 80s and growing up in NYC got to see bands like the Clash when they would come to town as well as lesser-known bands like Flipper at CBGBs matinee gigs. It would have been great to have something like Afropunk back then, when I was often the only black person at the club. I was also way into rap and would get teased about that from my white friends, while my black friends would give me crap about liking rock music, so I was definitely caught in the middle. This was before Run DMC covered Aerosmith’s Walk This Way, before gangsta rap, before the two worlds (rap and rock) began to mix a little bit. One good thing about getting older is that nobody cares about that stuff anymore as music is no longer intrinsic to one’s identity the way it is during adolescence.

      Still love rock music, more than any other genre (except maybe roots reggae). Early Allman Brothers, before Duane Allman died, when they played a mix of blues, hard rock and some fusion jazz, is my current obsession.

  • http://www.womanist-musings.com/ womanistmusings

    I really want to read this book. I find that White people in particular are shocked to discover that I am a huge fan of classic rock. It absolutely throws their idea of what Black people are supposed to like. I always tell people don’t let the Black skin fool you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000709864513 Michelle Kirkwood

    Hell,yeah, I’m getting this book—I went through all that s*** about a black girl liking heavy metal back in the late ’80’s/early ’90’s–I was also into alternative music before it became all the rage in the mid-’90’s—kinda sad that 20-some years after i wen through that, there are still young brothers and sisters getting grief for that from people who are obviously ignorant of rock music’s black roots, and have been led ot believe that rock is still “white people’s music”. If you go to the AFROPUNK site–www.afropunk.com—this subject is discussed there all the time—I’ve been posting there about this subject for years–check it out

  • Taryn

    I want this book right now!!!