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An Open Letter To GuitarGas

I recently posted about taking offense to some culturally insensitive humor on the GuitarGas blog. Simon was open enough to post a comment:

While I’m not in any sense what you might call “informed” politically, I don’t regard myself as racist in any traditional sense. Indeed on other blogs I have condemned that sort of smug and unquestioned racism that I come across frequently.

And so an open letter to GuitarGas:


Actually, I was glad to hear your apology. Unfortunately, I’ve been fighting production problems at work (a missing closing tag in a configuration file for those who enjoy details ;)) and thus no time for personal surfing. I’m still somewhat offput by some of the comments posted in response to mine on your site, but not so much that I haven’t already re-subscribed.

I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and also enjoying some of your pics on Flickr. This probably sounds stupid, but in some way I’d felt we’d established a relationsip…the same sort of relationship I have with Buddy Guy (that is, me as consumer of your creativity), but a relationship none the less. Even the post in question contained great info for a beginner guitarist like myself. It was dissappointing to find out that I am not among the people you consider a part of your readership. I have no intention of dictating language policies for the interweb. I will, and do, make choices as to who values my readership, and the diversity of their readership in general.

What pissed me off was your insensitivity to your readers. I don’t believe you would have made a similar joke if I, or anyone other black person was in the room with you at the time. I don’t believe it.

I’m not making that assertion because I believe you are secretly a Combat 18 member, quite the opposite. On the other hand, I think if you made the same joke at a party with someone of a different race present, you would have winced and thought better of it. I think if you had thought about me, or potentially hundreds of other readers of your blog who may have lived through a lifetime of bigotry and a history (almost all of my country’s history) of being less than a person, you would have realized that it wasn’t funny or ironic or anything like that.

Here’s a fun experiment. Find some black guys at a local council estate and read them your blog post. See if they think it’s funny. Now go to a local library and find some black guys. Try the same test. I think you’ll get exactly the reaction you expect. That being the case, why use the same joke behind the veil of the keyboard[mental note: good song title]?

Personally, I get very annoyed being the black guitarist, the black this, the black that. It’s not fun being in mainly white arenas where sometimes subconscious racism bubbles to the surface in the form of “jokes” or “irony” or “sendups”. It’s not fun dealing with people whose only experience of black people is the latest crunk video. Most of the time I bite my tongue and say nothing, but I make a mental note not to return to those places.

Now, the N word gets bandied about quite often now-a-days. You’d be stunned at some of the japanese commercials I’ve seen. Regardless, I don’t think you can say you would have made the same joke if I had been over your house jamming while you wrote that post.

At any rate, I’m more than willing to move on. The word was removed, the post is still great, and hopefully you’ll think twice about who reads your words and what messages you may be sending with them.