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Black songs matter!

If one is white one cannot sing Rihanna’s song “Umbrella” because one is, um, white. To do so would cause a microagression, or something.

According to Fox News’s Todd Starnes, a female student of the Caucasian persuasion was told in her human relations theory class at the University of Oklahoma that “it’s insulting and a microagression for me to cover or sing a Rihanna song because I’m not from Barbados.”

Well, if you put it that way!

One must first ask why anyone anywhere is taking a class on human relations theory. If one takes courses like that one deserves to have a massive college loan debt. Take some economics classes and you’d soon figure out why it is a bad idea career-wise to take a human relations theory course, regardless of whether one covers Rihanna or not.

But if that’s now the standard, we must rethink the last 60 years of popular music. Heck, as far back as 1956 Pat Boone covered Little Richard’s song “Tutti Frutti.” Okay, bad example. Boone’s version was so rotten it wasn’t a microagression, but a major one – of epic proportions. Whenever I see a video of his version, I have to run to a safe space and seek immediate counseling. I fear for my safety and the safety of those around me. (Three of four sessions usually does the trick.)

But, perhaps his version was acceptable because Little Richard was not from Barbados.

The Beatles covered their share of black artists in their early years. The Rolling Stones did too. Let history show that not single a microagression was alleged in any of these instances.

Further, it went the other way also. Nobody complained when the Supremes recorded “A Hard Day’s Night” because Diana Ross wasn’t from Liverpool. Or when Chubby Checker covered “Back in the USSR.,” especially since Checker hailed from neither Liverpool, nor the USSR, but rather Spring Gulley, South Carolina.

And what about Ike and Tina Turner and their covers of the Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash” or “Honey Tonk Woman?” Well, who really knows since most of us never took a human relations theory class.

Of course, we could delve into really muddy waters (sorry about that!) and ask if it’s a microaggression for a white person to lip sync to Milli Vanilli lip synching. That, I dare say, is the slipperiest of slopes. Insulting, sure, on Milli Vanilli’s part, but a microagression?

The female student also said that she was told in class to “go sing the Star-Spangled Banner.” This is a bit perplexing given that Rihanna has already sung the Star-Spangled Banner – at a Mets game in 2006.

So, if I follow the logic correctly, since Rihanna, a black woman from Barbados, has already sung the Star-Spangled Banner, the song is now off-limits to white people. There are clearly a lot of rules. This is getting way too complicated and there can be effects well beyond a lousy human relations course.

About a year ago I was at a nearby shopping center when I passed by a young man who was clearly in distress. I stopped to see if I could help him in some way.

“Sir, are you alright?” I asked as I knelt down beside him.

“Do I look alright to you?” he retorted, tears streaming down his cheeks. “I have no job, so I come here.”

“It’s tough being without a job,” I said. “I know, I’ve been there.”

He angrily looked at me and said, “I don’t care about a damn job! I’ve got this song in my head that I can’t get rid of. It’s killing me.” Realizing he must have some type of psychological disorder that I was not qualified to tackle, I told him I would go find some help for him, if he would stay put.

“Black Magic Woman,” he said. “That’s the song.”

“Um, okay, it’s not the greatest song in the world, but it’s not the worst either,” I responded, trying to reassure him. “It could have been ‘Achey Breaky Heart’. I once had Janice Ian’s song ‘At Seventeen’ in my head for a week. It was so depressing that for three days I didn’t even get out of bed.”

“It’s got the words black and woman in the title,” he continued. “And here I am a privileged white male. I don’t even know whose song it is, but I’m so ashamed.”

“Santana,” I said. “It was a hit song by Carlos Santana.”

“Oh, God, he’s not even white,” he exclaimed. “I need a safe space.” Then he made some kind of noise that I’ve only heard while visiting Sea World and ran over to the Dippin’ Dots kiosk. Soon, some emergency medical professionals arrived and took him away.

As you can see, the effects of musical microaggressions can be far-reaching. I understand the young man is now a teaching assistant in the Human Relations Department at the University of Oklahoma.

1 comment

1 Ann Herzer { 04.18.16 at 7:59 pm }

You are so……………clever. Think I’ll write a song about that.


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