Landmark civil rights legislation and decisions in the United States like the Voting Rights Act and the Brown v. Board of Education decision have tended to pay particular focus on areas with a “history of discrimination.” That’s code for the South. But not only does discrimination happen all over the country, but one of the areas with the biggest white supremacist issues is actually the Pacific Northwest.
The Pacific Northwest is an area that isn’t that diverse, relative to the rest of the country. It’s perhaps that reason why it’s unfortunately also been identified by white supremacists as an ideal area to settle. Luckily, locals are stepping up to face this issue head on.
In Seattle, musicians, venues, promoters, and other music industry people met recently to “discuss the increasing presence of white nationalism in Seattle’s scene.” The idea behind the meeting was to trade strategies and stories to help identify hate speech and hateful bands to stop them from spreading their ideas using music as a vehicle (and ideally, stop them entirely).
The way white power bands spread their message is often not as obvious as goose-stepping skinheads marching down the street screaming racial slurs. Instead, it often takes the form of subtle cues in the music, identifying vulnerable people who might be open to the ideas or questioning their own place in the world, and filling their head with white power. They often latch on to an existing subculture and take advantage of a certain types of tribe mentality.
“Since it started back in the mid-1980s, music has helped bridge the gap between hardcore white supremacy and healthy youth rebellion,” Devin Burghart, vice president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights told Seattle Weekly. “It provides both an accessible and easy way to tap into young people’s feeling of alienation, and provides a sense of identity and belonging in a way that is less threatening and less overt than a lot of other methods, so it’s been pretty successful for a long time.”
Because of these coded messages, a venue can sometimes inadvertently book a white nationalist band and give them a platform. Seattle organizations like If You Don’t They Will and no. NOT EVER. try and help educate people on identifying the signs and resisting them.
While white nationalism continues to be a problem throughout the country and particularly in the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle music scene is adopting strategies to identify and eliminate the problem as best they can. And that’s ultimately a good thing for music and creativity.
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