brownamsavenger (brownamsavenger) wrote,


FOR PUBLIC RECORD, posted (and subsequently deleted multiple times by the moderator) in the comments to a recent post on Musicology Now, the offical blog of the American Musicological Society:

Some suggested reading for both sides of this debate: (on 'white fragility')

Also: we would like to point out that, since this is a public discourse and the comments section of this blog makes it very difficult to protect one's identity, there are many young, untenured scholars—people of color and white allies alike—who feel too professionally vulnerable to intervene. Their outrage is invisible, and this only perpetuates structures of oppression in this society.

We are appalled at the original post and shocked to see many senior scholars responding so cluelessly to the debate (and we are grateful to the brave few who have entered into the fray to call out the spectre of white supremacist colonialism that still haunts the academy).

We are embarrassed at how the discipline to which we have devoted most of our productive lives disseminates unexamined bigotry to the world at large.

We are disheartened that the discipline upon which we've built our academic identity is somehow becoming MORE toxic to people of color.

We are infuriated that any complaint we make is met with condescending defensiveness instead of serious listening—let alone respect.

Please note that, in the relative privacy of Facebook group-chats, Whatsapp, and email, we're:

  • mocking these defenses mercilessly

  • venting our frustrations, "three times in a frightening crescendo."

  • commiserating about the burden of having to not only suffer racial oppression, but to also do the affective labor of making the racially privileged feel better about coming to terms with their complicity in it. Y'all are killing us, here.

  • comparing and compiling strategies for the inevitable "dinner with racist senior scholar at AMS" scenario.

  • learning how to *not* control our unruly brown emotions, but instead to focus and channel them towards change

  • taking names; noting who complains about a 'tempest in a teapot' on social media—and noting who likes them

  • developing classroom interventions

  • plotting, scheming, planning.

This is not our AMS. We can do better.
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February 19 2016, 10:18:49 UTC 4 years ago

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I'm a scholar of color. I've not commented too much on this whole incident--it isn't safe...but I have been thinking a lot about it.

I recall going every year to the AMS for the last 15 years and generally seeing a sea of white faces with very few people of color present and very few papers addressing race or music by people of color.

I recall the AMS List posts when Michael Jackson died.
A musicologist posted a post along the lines of: "I don't know anything about Michael Jackson since I focus on art music...but no one seems to be saying anything about his death...why is that?" and then seeing responses that included, "Why should we say anything about him, he was an entertainer not an artist."

But I most remember the AMS List posts of January 2011, when people on that list were defending Eggebrecht from the evidence that he was part of a Nazi unit that participated in the mass execution of 14,000 Jews in the Crimea during World War 2. And people on the list, and not just one person, defended Eggebrecht. People on the AMS List were defending a Nazi war criminal. Phrases like, "well can we really prove he pulled the trigger?" and most upsetting, "Well, even if he were a Nazi war criminal, that wouldn't have an effect on his scholarship...I mean, if he had discovered the identity of the Immortal Beloved would we ignore that because of things he did in his private life?" or "Your private activity has nothing to do with your scholarship."

People were defending a man they thought was an amazing musicologist who probably murdered 14,000 Jews.

These are people in the AMS.

And then there are the in person interactions. The many times I've been called an ethnomusicologist...presumably because the musicologists can't imagine a person like me is actually a musicologist.

And recently? The many, and regular, racist things that are said at the AMS, in papers and in the questions portions. From people defending racist composers--who are straight up white supremacists--no interpretation needed, to people talking about musicologists in ways that deny the possibility of people of color being musicologists (When we musicologists encounter music by black people, it might make us nervous, but we should work though it.--Um, there are black musicologists, you know that right?)

To the way white people who are "hip" and "with it" will go on and on about how square white people are how they have no rhythm and soul and not realize that when I hear that, I also hear the flip side of their comments which is that people color have natural rhythm.

To the way in the aftermath of the Musicology Now piece so many scholars are using straw man arguments to dismiss the concerns people are raising. The way they use the term "political correctness" in the most conservative and regressive way.

To the way at the meeting you go to the business meeting and look at who is given awards, or you look at JAMS and you look at who is published, and it is clear that people of color are not valued for the things they have to say and the things they can contribute to the society.

The AMS meeting is not a safe space for people of color.

Musicology is a conservative field that isn't safe for people of color.

This is a field full of people who value music that has provided succor to racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, classism, and colonialism (among other -isms) and the only way they can sleep at night is to pretend that politics is not relevant to the study of music....there is nothing to see here because music is about beauty and genius and humanity, never acknowledging that when the music they love so much was made, women and people of color and sexual and gender minorities were not seen as people...their humanity unrecognized...they could not vote and some were enslaved.

This is the field we are in. This field is not a good field for marginalized people.
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