Well, you wrote a piece after the shooting that—when was that, was that last month?
Yeah, that was last month.
So what prompted you to include that on Stereogum. That’s, like, a music site.
Totally. So that happened on a Sunday, and on the Monday, news started coming out about this dude—Wade Michael Page —news started coming out about his involvement in the hate-rock scene. And I was very feverishly absorbing all the information I possibly could in fits, really distraught fits. But I used my time blogging that day as escape from that. So I would go back and forth between my Stereogum duties and then reading what was going on. At no point when I was reading the hate-rock stuff did I think that this was, like, some sort of an opportunity for me to write about it on Stereogum. My mind wasn’t engaged that way.
Of course, yeah, of course.
It just wasn’t and my employers probably wouldn’t like to hear this, but my mind simply wasn’t engaged in a way—like how can I turn this into page views, you know? And then I saw Spin do something, and I was, like, okay cool—Spin’s doing it. And then I started just thinking about the fact that there were these sites that were speaking to the demographic that I usually speak to—who were saying something about the tragedy and bringing some light to it. And I stopped thinking about it: the fact that there would be a vast commercial angle to writing about it on Stereogum, and I just thought about the fact that, well, people are gonna be getting this information from these other sites.
Of course. Who probably aren’t going to read a news website.
And then I started reminding myself that Stereogum actually is a platform. That it’s a platform that I helped create and cultivate. As a means of expressing opinions. Granted, they’re about music, but ultimately, it is a means of expression. And there was just a moment where I was, like, you know, I do have this platform and there is actually an interesting aspect to the fact that there is music implicated on both ends, on both sides of the equation. The Sikh faith is hyper-musical. All the means of connection and ultimately the path to enlightenment is ultimately predicated and based on vibration.
And one of the means to attain that spiritual sound is through kirtan, hours of kirtan. There’s gonna be some sermons, there’s gonna be talk about Khalistan, and there’s, you know, the politics… but at its heart, it’s about devotional singing.
Khalistan, what is that?
Khalistan is basically a construct. It exists only in the minds and hearts of certain factions of Punjabi Sikhs, who would like to see that portion of Punjab secede from India and be its own independent Sikh state. Khalistan otherwise doesn’t exist; it’s not acknowledged by the United Nations.
And depending on the gurdwara you go to, you’ll hear a lot about it or maybe you won’t hear anything about it. I like to hear nothing about it when I go to the gurdwara ‘cause that’s not the reason that I go. But I understand that that’s a congregation place and that’s something that’s on people’s minds and people talk about it there. Regardless, most of the time, at any gurdwara, there’s gonna be kirtan. So essentially—and this thing struck me and became sort of like the realization that wound up inspiring the rest of the piece. The piece really just wrote itself. It was just that, this dude, this hate-rock dude, really made a name for himself singing in some of the most influential hate-rock bands.
Which is a funny sentence to read.
Which is funny, yeah, it really is. (Laughs.) But this guy shows up to a gurdwara, where basically the people convene for music for diametrically opposed ends. And it’s sad, that most of these tragedies—you know we’re sitting on the anniversary of one—but most other tragedies are really quickly forgotten, particularly one involving this sort of a minority.
Yeah. But I was really taken by the fact that there was deep symbolism on every end of it. There’s this musical aspect to it. There’s also just the mere fact that this guy was a hate-rock stalwart to the point that he had tattoos that were hateful. Just explicitly wearing them. And one of the six or seven people that he killed that day was the American dream—erected an American flag in his front yard. You really can’t ask for more extreme symbolism. If you were a film screenwriter, and I was your director, I’d be, like, you need to tone that down a little bit. It’s almost like a caricature. But it’s actually true, you know. So all these things—I just found there was an opportunity to talk about a lot of the issues that were implicated. Bring a little light into the situation, in terms of my specific perspective, which I realize was one that wasn’t being represented elsewhere.
—ICYMI: Check out the rest of the Ashok Kondabolu’s interview with Stereogum’s executive editor and emerging filmmaker Amrit Singh on the R today!
First, state your credentials. It’s okay to be a woman, but not a black woman. Their lived experiences are immaterial and can be dismissed as merely anecdotal. Make it clear that you are not racist or sexist, you are merely concerned about their plight. What plight? Well, pick one. Or several. Marriage, children, lack of the above, too much education, not enough education, welfare, whatever you think will sell. It only matters that you highlight their troublesome natures. Whatever it is, you must be sure to make it clear that they aren’t like other women. They are failing to perform in some way that affects the whole of society, even if you can’t quite explain how or why their personal lives are public property. Further, rely heavily on the idea of research that shows the problem is a problem. Never mention exactly when that research was done, or who were the subjects of it. Too much context may unnecessarily complicate the conversation.
Utilize stereotypes whenever possible, preferably ones that tie into the Mammy, Jezebel, or Sapphire tropes. Describe black women in ways that play up their sexuality and remove their humanity. After all they are Other, so their skin is a food stuff, the space between their thighs is mysterious, and they have never ever been innocent. No need to mention virginity or purity, even when speaking of black female infants, your focus must be on their sexuality. If you are speaking of black mothers make it clear that they need guidance, financial support, or salvation. What salvation? Well that all depends on whether they work too little and thus are on welfare, or work too much and thus are neglecting their children. There is no point at which they can balance work and family, because again they are Other and that is not possible for them. They are emasculating and thus unworthy of relationships, or the key to being masculine with their all knowing sexuality that is present from birth. Unrapeable, they can be trusted to raise any children but their own, and are sexually available until they become sexless.
They exist to be support systems, whether for men of all colors or women of every color but black. No need to mention their needs, hopes, dreams, or concerns. They have none, even if they do occasionally speak of themselves as real people with feelings. Their voices are too loud, too uneducated, or simply too aggressive. They are always angry about something, but their feelings aren’t real so they don’t matter. Be sure to specify how reasonable you are in the face of their unreasonable behavior. Write of how you studied them at a safe distance, while proclaiming that some of your closest friends are black women. No need to know anything about those close friends, but their names since all that matters is that you have them as proof that you know your subject, and are not racist or sexist.
Contrast them with women of other races, always making sure to highlight that other women are real women, while black women are simply black. Feel free to make blanket statements about their religious beliefs, educational levels, income levels, and family dynamics. All of it is true because you say it is, and you are the expert in black women, not any actual black women. If they are offended by your words, remind them of your credentials and refuse to engage in a conversation with them until they can be less emotional. Point to their tone as a reason to doubt the veracity of their experiences. After all they are only black women and thus they know nothing, own nothing, and are worth nothing but what you say they are.