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Friday, May 19, 2006 

Is Stephin Meritt Really Racist?

via NYTimes (© Kate Lacey)

I still don't know how to digest this: Stephin Meritt, a New York rockist, caught some serious flack because of his musical taste? Sasha Frere Jones dubbed Meritt a racist for his preference of nothing but "white" music/artists and distaste for African-American artists.

In case you're still clueless on the debate, Sasha Jones points to Stephin Meritt's article for Time Out New York, where he was asked to pick the best song from each year from 1900 - 1999. Predictably, Meritt's list was overwhelmingly white, with only 11 black folks credited including Public Enemy's "911 Is a Joke." Meritt would then claim that he actually over-represented blacks on his list in Meritt's interview with Thomas Bartlett. Does this make him racist? I don't think anyone ever sees themselves as racists (except of course, you're a gold member of the KKK).

Regardless of where you stand on this debate, though, most people's musical taste is often a reflection of underlying social ideoologies and beliefs which may include some stereotypical views. It's always been my observation that some white folks would throw in a random well-known hip-hop artist and round it off with "I like rap" when asked about their musical preferences, as a way of saying "Hey, I'm not racist."

Does Meritt deserve to be castrated for breaking out of that naive mold, and declaring his clearly prejudiced preference for white artists?

I think there's a delicate line between honest opinion and unrestrained bias here. A very, very intricate issue, if you ask me. It's only a matter of time before someone makes the comparison to Prussian Blue.

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