vocalist/guitarist Robb Flynn
posted a lengthy and thought-provoking piece on Facebook today detailing his thoughts on racism in America, and how far we still have to go. Flynn also took a shot at All That Remains
frontman Phil Labonte
and his "ignorant ass world views."
Here's the full post.
I've spent more than a few hours debating whether to write this General Journal.
I never do that. I just sit down and start writing, not really knowing what to write and eventually something clicks, and I go with it.
So here goes…I just watched the movie "Selma." If you've never heard of it, it's the story of black civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and his non-violent marches and protests that took place in Selma, Alabama. This happened in the years following President Johnson's de-segregation of the south, when black people were supposed to finally be able to vote, but ultimately they were denied that right for several more years. Who voted against it? Well it was done by the still extremely racist, local and state governments including Alabama's notoriously racist Governor George Wallace.
While so many emotions ran through my mind while watching this, surprisingly the thing I cannot get out of my mind was the violence. Shocking doesn't even begin to describe the absolute savagery. I mean we're talking "Passion of the Christ"-level shocking! The sheer viciousness of people at that time is something I hope many of them feel great shame for in their old age.
The film breaks down all the legal mumbo-jumbo that went into keeping black people unable to vote. It's really something to see the government's tactics ranging from blatant intimidation to the more "subtle" state funded "voucher system," in which you had to have someone "vouch" for you to vote!? But with a glitch…of course. That glitch was if no one within one hundred miles had ever voted (like every black person in the area) then it was impossible to get someone to "vouch" for you, thus… you couldn't vote. It was legislated racism and in the sickest of ways, and it was admittedly, very clever.
Everyone should go see his movie.
But no one will.
It's already bombed. Despite winning many awards, according to my "Flixter" app, it's only grossed $9 million (compare that to the gajillionth pro-war movie "American Sniper" which grossed $90 million). But watching "Selma" on Martin Luther King day, somehow seemed like the right thing to do, especially in these confusing, fucked up times. I needed to try and make sense of this, to make better somehow, to figure out an answer to what is going on these days.
But there was no answer.
It was depressing, and sad, and horrible, and uplifting, and ultimately powerful.
So why am I debating it?
I put up a post on my Instagram about a week ago of a photo of a sign inside The Metro in Oakland where we were rehearsing for our Evening With tour, that read "Black Lives Matter – Oakland to Ferguson". There was a surprising amount a vitriol pointed at me in the comments. Lots of posts about "good job alienating fans on the eve of a tour", and how "they wouldn't be spending their hard-earned money on my CD or my tour" and that, "the next time something goes down, they're going to make signs saying "White Lives Matter", (because apparently white people have been equally oppressed for a few hundred years).
They wouldn't spend their money on my tour…
That one hit me.
Apparently metal musicians aren't supposed to have opinions on the issues of the day, we're just supposed to "rock and party bro". And while we still do that with the best of 'em, all of my favorite bands had some kind of moral consciousness. From Black Sabbath's anti-Vietnam war screed "War Pigs", to Metallica's "Disposable Heroes" and "One", to System Of A Down's "Sad Statue" or "BYOB", to Bob Dylan's "Masters Of War", to Springsteen's' "Born In The USA", and John Lennon's "Imagine".
If you think about it, musicians and artists are probably more affected by the world than most, hence our ability to channel things and feelings into music and art.
Three nights ago we got into lengthy discussion about Ferguson and the Eric Garner murder. It's a divisive subject. Some folks feel Michael Brown got what he deserved, some don't. That case more than any, is the toughest to call. Did the cop act in defense? Could he have done something different? Did an 18 year black man, high on nothing more than marijuana, (and who granted, had aggressively just stole cigars to roll blunts with), really reach into a cop car and try and grab the officer's gun? Or, did the cop just lose his wits and blow an unarmed black man away? I've read a lot on both sides, including the police officers testimony and the friend of Michael Brown's, and both seems a little dubious. It's really fucking hard to make heads or tails of.
But we were all in agreement that the Eric Garner's murder was absolutely and unequivocally wrong. Though Garner was no angel, 5 police officers should not have choked an unarmed black man to death, (with a banned chokehold), who said "I can't breathe" 11 times, and whose only crime was selling un-taxed cigarettes. And the grand jury clearing of both officers involved in record speed. And then there's the 12 year shooting of Tamir Rice by an officer deemed unstable by his previous police force that was even more disturbing.
We talked about it more the next day, and the conversation evolved into the bigger picture. About income inequality, about Wall Street's sniping of of American Corporations in the name of shareholder profits, and how unbelievably powerful the media is nowadays, and how (subliminally clever) they are at repeating the headline (no matter how off-base) over and over again, knowing that if they say it enough times, it'll eventually sink in. Like how "protests" and "die-in's" were suddenly deemed "riots". Like how, of the 300 people arrested for not "clearing the streets" only "2? were for assault or destruction of property.
We talked about how the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class, is stuck eroding away in the middle, all while we are stuck in 14 year-long-war that's cost us trillions of dollars. That we're a country willing to spend millions of dollars a day to bring freedom to Iraq, and yet, we just played in New Mexico where many of the Navajo Nation Indian reservations (the original American's) don't even have basic needs like running water or electricity.
What's even more surprising, is the a very small but very vocal minority of the police themselves. An Indiana police officer sold T-shirts saying "Breathe Easy. Don't Break the Law." A veteran San Jose Police Officer, Phillip White, tweeted: "Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you. ?#?CopLivesMatter?".
And here's where all the naysayers will rant that I'm "anti-police".
And that would be completely missing the mark, because I also was deeply moved by the story by the black police officer whose brother was a junkie, and how it deeply affected his life to want to do justice for the world, and yet how he's reminded of racism whenever he walks through a store in his street clothes, and how the undercover still follows him around.
And then there's this:
Did you hear about the police officers in Florida that were active Ku Klux Klan members? Hactivist group "Anonymous" broke the story, and when they did, the chief of police fired the officers immediately (an admission of guilt if there ever was one). That's right, active KKK in the police dept.! Though this is apparently not illegal?!
Are you really going to say black men still getting targeted is a coincidence? That white people have it just as bad?
And then as I was writing this, someone sent me Phil Labonte from All That Remains ignorant ass world views from his Revolver magazine cover story. WTF!? Metalsucks.net rightfully slammed him, and good for them! And shame on Revolver for not!
So yeah, I decided that watch "Selma" on Martin Luther King Day in America, in Texas.
When we were talking earlier that day, I remembered that when I bought my second house (which I lost when the bubble burst a few years ago, and my family and I had to Short Sell) we inherited all the original paperwork from this 1950's house. Right there in the paperwork, it said, "no negroes shall live in this house". It was kinda shocking, especially by liberal California standards.
A big point I hear repeated is that "black people don't want to work, and that if they just picked themselves up by their bootstraps, they'd make good", and yet here I have a document from California saying that even if they DID pick themselves up by their bootstraps, the city would not let them live there. Real Estate agents used to get fired for even showing houses to black people in the the neighborhood.
All legislated by the local govt, the county, the state… the nation.
But we have a black president!
It's only been 50 years since black people could even vote, do you really think we've come that far? That the old ways have completely died.
Isn't it interesting that 50 years on from MLK's assassination, they still haven't found his killer?
Could you imagine someone like FOX blowhard Bill O' Riley (a high profile white person, but not a politician) getting assassinated and not finding the killer for 50 years??!! People would be incredulous!
And so I sat there thinking…
Writing this journal… and so I decided to write down the words "I'm scared", to own what I was feeling.
Scared of what other bands were gonna think of me writing this.
Scared of what fans were going to think of this.
Scared because here I am in Texas, then New Orleans and then Florida and then Atlanta (where the last time we headlined there some asshole in the front row kept yelling out "Kill Niggers!") and I'm about to put out a Journal on racism in America, with people already threatening to not go to my concerts.
But you know what?
I believe in this to my fucking bones.
Where are the god damn protest songs? Where are the "War, What Is It Good For's"? Where are the "Fight The Power's"? Where are the white metal bands protesting about Ferguson and Staten Island? Why don't metal bands stand for anything anymore? When did we reach this point in society where it's unpatriotic to question our military or our police? Why are so goddamned proud to just fall in line?
Martin Luther King said in one of his speeches (not included in the movie) that, "history will not reflect back on this time of unrest and remember the evil that was done, or the viciousness of the bad… but the appalling silence of the good".