Last night, esteemed public radio host Jesse Thorn sent out a tweet asking his listeners to fill out a quick online survey regarding the segments that make up his weekly pop culture show, Bullseye. While I don’t know the exact number of people that took the time to complete the survey, based on Jesse’s later tweet (pictured above), it’s easy to see that a good portion of those surveyed don’t exactly care for the show’s predilection for hip hop.
It’s more than acceptable to have the opinion that Jesse’s show might lean a bit too heavily on rap music for your liking. In fact, the entire point of the survey was to examine these little swatches of user-generated info to better fine tune the program to the listeners’ tastes. The respondents’ distaste just as easily could have focused on the segments regularly provided by Kasper Hauser or The Onion’s A.V. Club.
But where the internet and social media broke down a little bit for me today was in the somewhat reactionary responses to Jesse’s tweet that based on the results of the survey thus far, he was inclined to believe that “many people hate rap music”. When traversing the realm of Twitter, you often have to accept that the comments you make are going to receive some amount of blowback, but the replies leveled at the surveyed hip hop haters called up something I wasn’t expecting, especially from listeners of Bullseye: racism.
Embedded amongst the all too common replies that grumbled something to the tune of “fuck those people” or “just play more hip hop to piss them off” was a surprisingly large and decidedly vocal branch of listeners that immediately invoked a charge of racism on the detractors of rap or sarcastically copped an attitude of “fucking white people”.
This particular sampling of vitriol left a few queries wandering around my head as I attempted to work this morning:
When did it become racist to dislike a genre of music? When someone expresses a negative opinion about hip hop, why is it automatically assumed that they must be white? Would the same sort of shaming be thrown at someone that communicated their dislike of twee music or some other predominantly white genre of music? Would the hounds of Twitter pounce upon that sort of comment as racist or make the assumption that the author was “probably black”?
Maybe, but most likely not.
As I myself tweeted earlier, disliking a particular genre of music doesn’t make you a racist, but being a fucking racist does. I’m pretty sure that we are all going to have a hard time advancing as a society (online and offline) until we accept that disagreeing with someone’s tastes or opinions and hating that person are two distinctly separate things.
Personally, I enjoy Bullseye's focus on hip hop. If you spend five minutes perusing Company Pants, it’s pretty easy to see that I have a deep appreciation of an always-evolving multitude of music and buried somewhere near the center of that adoration is a profound love of hip hop that goes back to middle school when I tricked my mom into letting me rent the R-rated Tupac Shakur vehicle, Juice. Bullseye's segments with Andrew Noz from Cocaine Blunts & Hip Hop Tapes are unique in that Jesse and Noz tend to discuss something that goes well beyond the typical surface level criticism that comes with most discussions about music. While it might not meet everyone’s specific taste values, it’s at the very least an enlightening look into a particular culture and a pleasure to hear two men speak so passionately about something they both clearly care a great deal about.
Until the end of time, people are always going to have differing opinions, especially when it comes to something as heartfelt as personal taste. But it’s these differences in the things that we enjoy that keep us interesting to each other. The little bits and pieces of culture that we each individually enjoy and obsess over give us more to learn from each other, discuss with each other and even occasionally argue with each other about. But as it does with so many other areas that revolve around someone’s opinions or beliefs, discourse tends to fall apart when a few people lose focus on the actual subject at hand and start yelling louder than everyone else involved and spouting unfounded accusations.
It’s ok to love hip hop. It’s ok to dislike hip hop. Neither opinion makes you a racist and having either opinion doesn’t make you better than anyone else. It just means that you happen to have an opinion.
Now, for the third or fourth time (I’ve lost track), go listen to Bullseye.