Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Navigating black identity in a largely white music scene

Sharah Hutson
Contributing Writer

On this past Saturday, Nov. 25, I traveled to the Agora Ballroom for the first time to witness the music festival Snowed In. With headlining bands such as Adult Mom, Diet Cig, Saintseneca and PUP, I found myself being excited to see a lot of these bands for the first time. The entire show was jam-packed with wonderful performances and if you are unabashedly fond of earworm melodies, then you would definitely find yourself falling in love with all of the performers.

For the duration of Snowed In, I could not stop reflecting on my past and current experiences at shows as I found myself getting awkward looks from my white counterparts. Ever since my first year of high school, I went to shows for bands such as Of Mice and Men, Thy Art is Murder, Attila, Sorority Noise, Neck Deep and Being As An Ocean. Whenever I went to these shows (often accompanied by my father who was always weary), I would stand in the ticket line, enter the venue and leave the show with the feeling that I did not belong. At all of these shows (even the ones here at The College of Wooster), I could feel myself drowning in a sea of whiteness while constantly questioning my blackness and what it constituted. I did not look like the people around me: my hair got nappier when I started sweating, I did not have piercings, my ears were not stretched, and most notably, I was not white. As I started getting into death metal and metalcore, I began to feel more alienated at shows due to the fact that I would be one out of three visibly black people in the room (the use of the word visibly indicates that some folks in the room might have been white-passing folks of color).

After sharing my musical tastes with my family, who played calypso, merengue and hip-hop while I was growing up, I was always met with questions surrounding how I got into genres like nu metal and grunge. My entire high school career was bathed in anti-blackness through the act of ostracization from other black folks as I tried to prove myself to my fellow classmates, because even though I listen to this “odd form of music,” I am still black. I had to deal with proving myself to other black folks and proving to white folks that I belonged at the show just as much as they did. I could mosh just as much as they could and scream the lyrics just as loud. My venturing outside of what constitutes “black music” was seen as an act of rebellion and assimilation towards white culture (why would I desire to be like the W.A.S.P’s/white folks?).

So as I stood in the crowd at Snowed In, I was constantly reminded of the fact that I am black and that the white folks around me will always give me quizzical looks. Whenever I attend these shows, I am reminded of the fact that I will always feel the heavy weight of being black and I have yet to completely figure out what blackness encompases.

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