Friday, June 8, 2018

YouTube comments and History Wars

I'll preface this by saying I'm going to use the terms "white people" and "black people" just for simplicity rather than "people of European descent" or "people of colour" or "African Americans" I don't mean to offend anyone by the choice of terms...

I usually make it a rule never to read YouTube comments but occasionally my mind wanders and I accidentally start reading...

Yesterday I came across one that actually shocked me - I wont link to it because it was accompanied by a disgusting racial slur which doesn't deserve attention - but the gist was this;

A white music artist of the 1950's was performing a cover of a traditional blues song and someone made the expected comment about white people "stealing" black music - now leaving aside the "stealing" issue for now - what shocked me was the REPLY to that comment.

The reply was suggesting (ignoring the racial slur for now too) that black people were always taking credit for things they didn't invent. Now this is an opinion I've heard before but THIS one was in relation to BLUES music! There is hardly any invention as incontestably "black" as the blues!

Of all the black inventions and contributions to society that have been belittled, diminished or appropriated by white people, I've NEVER before heard anyone imply that black people were incorrectly claiming ownership of blues music.

Now, obviously this person in an ignorant, racist moron who doesn't deserve to be written (or read) about - but this attitude is a worrying symptom of a growing problem.

All around the world racism, sexism, class-ism, xenophobia and isolationism are on the rise - in the LONG term this is OK - it's a reaction to the fact that minorities are feeling more empowered to speak up and DEMAND change - every time this happens, the people in power get defensive and lash out. There is no one more outraged or offended than a privileged person who feels their privileges are under threat - not that they'll LOSE them, just that they may have to grant them to others as well!

A major symptom of these clashes of culture are a re-evaluation/re-writing of history by both sides - this is absolutely necessary - history was not only written by the "victor" or conqueror or colonizer - but it was written in a way to justify and legitimize their (often illegal and immoral) actions - it NEEDS to be rewritten from a viewpoint as unbiased and disinterested as possible - and most historians are striving to do just THAT.

Uneducated, ignorant people though are weighing in on these "history wars" and muddying the general public's ideas of history.
White people have ALWAYS been belittling other culture's achievements and contributions in order to justify their power over them or their right to seize their land or possessions.

But now, in an attempt to fight back - SOME people (on social media in particular) are fighting lies with MORE lies - claiming white people's inventions were really made by black inventors, that white races are less "pure" claiming various diseases originate with white people (due to their genetic inferiority) - a popular Instagram/Facebook meme even claims Mozart was black.

These are all arguments that white people have made against black people before but, besides the old adage "two wrongs don't make a right" - the more serious result of this false re imagining of history is that it increases the credulity of both sides and, like the climate change "debate" - it erodes people's confidence in "expert's" opinions - "historians are just making it all up". "I read that...", "did you know?" - anyone can say ANYTHING and have it believed by SOMEONE!

This issue of credulity spreads across all topics - I think it's due to society being used to believing what we read in books but not yet used to the Internet age where EVERYONE'S an author and a publisher (but that's a subject for another rant).

But the reason this YouTube comment (remember that?!) bugged me so much is that, unlike climate change or feminism, the history of the blues doesn't have many voices championing it.

In MY opinion, blues is criminally under appreciated already without having to come under attack from racists (AGAIN!)
The fact that Eric Clapton is a blues "God" while Freddie King is a footnote is already a tragedy of racism.

In my view, Charley Patton and Blind Lemon Jefferson should be held in the same regard as Beethoven and Mozart, or Dylan or Lennon or McCartney - instead they're viewed as novelties, curios - even as objects of mirth, ridicule and parody.
But for someone to imply that blues wasn't even INVENTED by black people?! Seriously what is the world coming to?!


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