The first time I consciously got myself ready to be assaulted I was 21 years old at a metal show. The bands weren't great, it was a $5 show serving $1.75 beers before hipsters decided that drinking cheap piss beer is cool. It was that kind of show, and I was having a great time with my friends. Going in, I saw those dudes.
Most people who have been to a rock show have seen those dudes. They are the guys who wear their little neo -Nazi buttons, or white laces, their Nazi band T-shirts. Those guys. The guys with hot, angry eyes and who demand to know, what are you doing at my show?
Those guys always saw me. Not that it was hard to miss me. Short Black curvy chubby girl with big tits and a short skirt in a sea of skinny White girls. I understood my hypervisibility and the position it often puts me in. From the days of watching 120 Minutes or Headbanger's Ball at home alone to terrible all ages shows to arena shows to shows in clubs, I have always accepted my visibility and tried to deal with it.
"[These jokes are] the validation of their latent racism that then makes being a metalhead dangerous for someone like me."
I am a music super freak. I remember the first time I listened to Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, I can tell you about laying in front of my dad's stereo listening to Kashmir on vinyl at apocalypse volume, I can tell you about how much I loved discovering different kinds of metal- but we'll save my metalhead meltdown for another day.
Y'all see what I'm saying. I'm an unashamed metalhead, but I want to talk about Phil Anselmo, racism and why I don't even touch any sort of metal community anymore. First a quick story.
Once upon a time, yours truly spent an entire day sitting in a park reading, drinking coffee, smoking and writing. I was also wearing a much worn, beloved Pantera T-shirt. It was obviously fairly ancient, it had been given to me by a friend after he'd seen them in concert. It was my favorite band shirt. A dude approached me to ask me about it and I remember when I told him that I just really like Pantera and that Vulgar Display of Power was my favorite album and we bro'd out.
There's really no other way to explain it. If you're not a super fan of something you may never know the dorktastic glory of bro-ing out with a stranger over something you both love. We sang Fucking Hostile and threw the horns and talked about the album and Phil's voice and Dimebag and it was a beautiful thing.
Now, this fellow metalhead did not have an issue with me being Black. At one point he paused and had a, "huh, Black people like metal" type moment and we continued our bro-down.
The random fellow metalhead bro-outs have had to fill the void of going to shows for me.
Here is where we come back to Phil Anselmo and his White power joke.
The problem isn't entirely the shitty joke. I've been done with White power jokes since about 1982 and I was born in 1977. The problem is that a lot of his fans in particular, don't think it's a joke.
Those jokes speak to the disenfranchised dudes like the ones I mentioned above who use the joke to justify their hate. The jokes make them feel like Phil is one of them because when you are a fan that's something you do. If Badass Metalbro Phil is joking and throwing that White Power salute, hey, why shouldn't they do it too?
Those jokes give those dudes the slap on the back they want. It's the validation of their latent racism that then makes being a metalhead dangerous for someone like me.
It's those jokes that get thrown around in those spaces that make it okay for grown men to look at me and things go sideways. I'm sure y'all are smart and can figure out or look up the dynamics of the mob but that's what happens.
The show I mentioned at the beginning of this was one of those shows. Some lead singer of a band did his White Power bit and those dudes saw me. If you have been involved with, a victim of or close to violence, it's a look you know. I thought to myself, they are gonna fuck me up. I started looking for the exits while grabbing a beer bottle off of a table so I could defend myself.
That is the problem with the jokes.
Here is what Phil had to say:
Philip H. Anselmo here, and I'm here to, basically, respond to all the heat I've been getting that I deserve completely. I was at the Dimebash and it was extremely late at night [and] there was heavy-duty talk between myself and those who love Dime. And heavy emotions were flowing, jokes were made backstage that transpired upon the stage, and it was ugly, it was uncalled for. And anyone who knows me and my true nature knows that I don't believe in any of that; I don't wanna be part of any group. I'm an individual and I am a thousand percent apologetic to anyone that took offense to what I said, because you should have taken offense to what I said. And I am so sorry, and I hope you just... Man, give me another chance to... Just give me another chance. I love all of you. And anyone who's met me, anyone who knows me knows that I love all of you. Bless you.
Because I still really enjoy his music and voice I feel for the guy. Look Phil, I know a lot of folks who have told me on many occasions that you're a quality person. Here's the thing: I don't want you to feel this way. I don't. I want to give you the chance you want and I want you to understand something.
What I want you to understand, is this.
This behavior, as ugly as you know it is, has deep consequences for fans like me. Your band Down came through town and I wanted to go because I really enjoy it, but my personal safety takes precedence and these jokes make it unsafe for me.
"This behavior, as ugly as you know it is, has deep consequences for fans like me."
If you doubt it, read the comments.
In any one of the online metal communities make an anonymous log on and say anything decent about Black fans or welcoming of Black fans and see what happens.
That is what you should be sorry for because this is your community too. And when what you model for the community involves these kind of jokes, what the fuck man?
Don't apologize. Be about that shit.
Don't get into the White guilt, self-loathing, just stop.
Be upfront and tell everyone that no, no the racism you were modeling for fun is real serious shit.
Set your reputation for racism (because I know you have to be aware of it) on fucking fire.
For me, "Fucking Hostile" will still play in my head at full volume when I need it. I will still sit at home working, throwing the horns and listening to "Lysergik Funeral Procession."
This post originally appeared on Medium.