The big headline of this week in our community has been Phil Anselmo‘s (ex-Pantera) public display of racism. For those who somehow haven’t seen it, a video can be found below the jump. What it boiled down to is Anselmo shouted “White Power!” at a show as he did the Sieg Heil, better known as the Nazi salute. The reactions to this across the internet obviously varied, from the disappointing defenses to the utter bewilderment of dedicated fans. I have enough faith in our audience that I’d like to think you trend more towards the latter.
This type of behavior is, without question, unacceptable.
Anselmo tried to play it down as a joke. Instead of apologizing, he said, “Some of y’all need to thicken up your skin.” However, he was obviously not joking. Even if he were (which he wasn’t), it’s still not acceptable. I’ll get to why I make this assertion. The point of this article isn’t that racism is bad. This should be obvious. It’s not that it still exists, as it obviously does, both within the scene and also in the world at large. I hope that is obvious as well.
The point of this article is how important it is to speak up against it. Why? Because Anselmo has been displaying this kind of behavior for decades, with his behavior just now becoming the subject of conversation. Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn spoke up against it in a video he made, saying, “You know, the thing that’s amazing about this is that we’re all scared to say anything. […] I am scared to put this video out. […] You’re a big bully. A big, scary dude. But…enough’s enough”.
Rob Flynn, a man who sold over three million records, who is one of the biggest names in the scene was afraid to speak up against it. And you might be afraid to speak up as well. But you have to.
I get it. Pantera were one of the most notable names in metal in of its formative years. They still have a lot of very dedicated fans, with their name commanding a lot of respect. However, power and fame doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) grant one license to say hateful things. This isn’t some off-kilter remark we’re talking about. Metal spans the entire globe, standing as one of the most diverse and welcoming communities on the planet. There are metal bands with members from all ethnicities, all groups, all countries. The same goes for listeners. Metal is huge in India, in South America, in Southeast Asia. How is it acceptable that one of the biggest names in the genre, one thousands—if not millions—look up to, to say something as blatantly racist and hurtful as this? Metal is something that brings people together, not something that drives them apart. What’s happened here? The roots of metal were always, admittedly, aggressive, with some big names in metal being tied to similar issues before. What happened here?
Let’s look at what Robb Flynn said again (transcript courtesy of Blabbermouth):
I can understand why you edited it out, Chris R, because, really, it was almost too much to believe, wasn’t it? That this shouldn’t somehow be seen. Thankfully, you decided to do the right thing and you put it up, knowing full well that you were going to get the wrath of the metal community. And you have. Over a thousand comments on your YouTube page. Five hundred comments on Blabbermouth. They shut down the comments page. Same with MetalSucks, who wrote a very poignant statement about not letting Phil Anselmo off the hook anymore.
It’s totally understandable that Chris R., the uploader of the video featuring Anselmo’s transgressions, was afraid of the ire of the metal community. We’ve seen this happen before. In previous articles we ran where we challenged some of the uglier aspects of the community, we received hateful, violent messages. We’re unfortunately a bit more experienced in dealing with this, but that’s not the case for the average metalhead. This isn’t just about uploading a video. If you go look at the comments section of articles relating to this matter, there is so much hatred and vitriol—even threats of violence.
Chris R. did the right thing.
This brought it to the attention of many. The thing is, this isn’t something new. Robb Flynn implies how he and others didn’t want to speak up against this. Jorgen Munkeby of SHINING (NOR) said that we all should have said this long ago. Metalsucks posted an excellent exposé on Anselmo’s history of racism.
But this doesn’t end on Anselmo.
Racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry happen in the metal scene on a daily basis. I hear it from both friends in the scene and artists. When I interviewed Marc Okubo of Veil of Maya a few years ago, he told me that he received racially-charged remarks frequently on their tour. Some were harmless, but still born out of ignorance. YouTube comments on any metal video with a female or minority member almost inevitably end up being disparaging about the member’s nature. We’ve ran multiple editorials regarding women in the scene and their grievances. There is so much ugliness in metal. But hopefully you already know this. That’s not what we’re here for. We want to fix our scene.
I know it’s not always easy to stand up and say something. It’s awkward. It could get you ostracized—or worse. But you have a choice. Those who are on the receiving end of bigotry don’t have the luxury to make this choice. You do. The more people let bigotry slide, the more it gains ground. No one feels like they can stop it by themselves. That’s just it—they can’t. As a group, however, by standing in solidarity, we can slow its tide, one voice at a time. It truly makes a difference and it’s the only way we can eventually make metal as open to anyone who wants to be part of our family.
Next time you see some bigotry, be like Chris R. Be like Robb Flynn. Say something. Do something. Don’t let these subhuman Nazi worshippers and blatant purveyors of bigotry poison our community. There are people of every color, every nationality, every orientation all around the world who are connected by this beautiful music. There are people who battle depression with the help of it. There are people who find themselves within it. There are people who find their best friends, the loves of their lives, the meaning of their lives with it. Don’t let hateful people take those incredible opportunities away. Don’t let them think that this loving, powerful community be divided by something as meaningless as the color of one’s skin or even their place of birth.
Thank you, Robb Flynn, for speaking up and putting your weight behind this powerful message.
Thank you, Chris R., wherever you are, for helping this snowball get rolling.