Diversity Through Art
Diverse americans use music to express themselves and get points across that otherwise might have been ignored.
“These people are ignorant, they cannot see the bigger picture. They must fight, and kill, and murder each other. But all I ever wanted to do was spread a message of equality, for every man, woman, and child, regardless of race, religion, color, creed, and sexual orientation.”
-Sir Robert Bryson Hall (Logic)
What is diversity?
Well, if you ask the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, this word, diversity, means “the condition of having or being composed of different elements.” Seems straight forward enough. But what does this mean in terms of people? How does this definition, the idea of being composed of many different elements, relate to people, especially in this melting pot of a nation we call the United States?
The short answer: diversity means many different types of people. Different races, religions, sexualities, and genders. It seems cut and dry. It seems like a good and a positive thing, the interaction of peoples and ideas and stories, the melting and meshing, and above all, appreciation of traditions and culture.
But from this beautiful idea of cultural appreciation and and interaction, how did the United States end up in a state of perpetual and systematic oppression of minorities? How did we end up as a nation refusing asylum to those who need it because of their race, a nation who bans a religion that twenty-five percent of the world’s population practices, a nation who attempts to control its own women’s bodies, and a nation who has more citizens die due to police violence than military personnel in combat?
These ideas are scary, the thought of the “land of the free and home of the brave” not truly being free is an idea that many Americans grapple with and refuse to accept. It’s an idea, however, that needs to be fully processed in the minds of American citizens, because a state of perpetual denial get us nowhere.
Diverse Americans, those who differ from the status quo of heterosexual, caucasian, cisgender, or American-born, are acutely aware of these issues in our society because they’re the issues that affect them personally; they are the experts in the topic even though they’re the people who are ignored the most. To combat this perpetual ignorance of those who don’t accept the fact that there are societal issues in America, diverse americans have turned to using a method of argument that many people can identify with: art, specifically music.
Diverse Americans have begun to understand that in order to reach an audience who might not listen otherwise, they need to turn to music, something that all can relate to no matter who or what they are. Diverse americans have begun to view America through the lense of music, whether they’re the ones who write it or they’re the ones who stand in the audience and scream the lyrics that mean the most to them, because music is a universal language.
“I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.”
-God Bless the USA by Lee Greenwood
This lyric, a phrase that so many American children learn in elementary music class, is the overarching idea of our nation. It’s the idea that draws immigrants seeking a better life, an idea that spurs on feelings of patriotic pride. Once you’re an American, you’re free.
At least on paper.
In all actuality, diverse Americans are in constant fear of being pulled over by a white police officer, of being harassed and yelled at, and of being looked down upon and thought of as less-than. Charlie (name changed at request), a member of Royal Oak High School’s Diversity Club, spoke on this, saying that “as a diverse American I’m fully aware that we’re taken advantage of, if we’re regarded at all.” Another student and member of the Diversity Club, Autumn, had a differing view on this lyric. She interpreted this lyric as being thankful for what our nation offers compared to others, but still addressed the fact that there is a long way until every American is completely free.
In a nation with so many different peoples and viewpoints, even people who think of something in a different way than someone else can find common ground, and these interpretations of a classic patriotic song exemplifies this while also highlighting how far our nation still has to go to in the grand scheme of social justice.
“Not your way, not going to obey. This is my body and you don’t have a say.”
-Not Your Way by Misterwives
In the United States government there is almost constantly a piece of proposed legislation about women’s bodies and their right to health care. Over and over again, doctors and politicians alike have said that a women’s right to control her on body, meaning her decision on birth control and abortion, is health care Many times over, however, the government has tried to take this away from our women. Sarah (name changed at request) from Diversity Club spoke on this while contemplating this lyric that she was presented with. After a moment of considering, with a heavy sigh she said, “you know, I’m really sick of uninformed men trying to tell me what to do with my body.” Charlie echoed this sentiment, saying that even though he’s a male he’s a proud feminist and believes that all women should be allowed to take control of their bodies and medical choices.
This interaction of two people relating to the same lyric and sentiment of justice for diverse Americans shows how powerful of a connection music can have between people and is the exact reason Diverse Americans turn to lyrics as an outlet. Charlie is a musician and said that many times he’s seen close-minded people hear a song by a diverse artist about their struggles and have that lyric change their outlook.
“Music is powerful,” he said. “It’s both an outlet and a teacher, it’s a plea for progress and it’s the stepping stones on which that progress is made.”
“Girls love girls and boys, and love is not a choice.”
-Girls/Girls/Boys by Panic! At the Disco
The separation of church and state is a fundamental part of the United State’s government and has been since the erection of the United States constitution. Many arguments have been started over this idea and what constitutes a religious idea in the eyes of the government, and no idea has been more heavily debated than same-sex marriage.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” Miles (name changed at request) from Diversity Club said. “I was raised thinking that love is love no matter who it’s between and it amazes me that some people are so angry about who loves who.” This shock at the hatred of some people has been reflected across multitudes of songs and other media outlets, both by the diverse members of the LGBTQ community and allies, and many times has changed people’s minds on their close-minded stance.
“This song [that the lyric is from] became my anthem in middle school because it described me,” another member of the club said. “I felt so alone until I heard this because once I did I realized it’s okay to be me.” This connection to a song is the reason people continue making these songs; diverse people understand what it’s like to be alone and have the world against them and they don’t want others to feel the same.
Music is a key part of the battle for equality for diverse Americans. In an America that feels set on silencing those who are different, these diverse peoples turn to music to express themselves and get their message out, just as people have done with art for millenia. No matter who you are or where you are in the world, art, especially music, is a universal language of expression that diverse americans have found solace in. Music weapon of peaceful change that diverse americans have learned to wield with ease.
“I do make art, thank you very much.”
-Matthew Timothy Healy, lead singer of The 1975