Last month, a friend took me to a concert. Though I’d never heard of the band, I was game. Between the invite and the actual show, she made me a playlist to get acquainted with their sound. But to be totally transparent, I didn’t get around to listening to it (and the few songs I did listen to hadn’t stuck with me), so I was going in totally blind.
We headed out to Santa Ana (Orange County for those unfamiliar with Southern California) on a sunny Friday afternoon. When we got to the venue, we were surprised to see a rather…diverse…crowd. There was a mix of young adults of all races and identities and then a group of much, much older and almost exclusively white adults. We soon learned that two shows were happening at the venue that night: the young crowd was going to see a local rapper; the older crowd was there to see the band.
As we filed into line with the older crowd, my friend and I silently surveyed the landscape. I remember feeling like something was off, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it just then.
Once inside the venue, the crowd split into two rooms: the rap show was taking place in the larger hall while the band was playing in a tiny, intimate setting. Inside, the difference was even starker. My friend and I were much younger than almost everyone around us, and I was the only Black woman in the room. The opening act was interesting, and then the band—comprised of a Black husband and wife duo—finally came onstage. They played through their recently released album, and their crowd was there for it.
Everyone had their phones out recording. Couples were dancing, clapping, whooping, and cheering with such enthusiasm, and I, to be perfectly honest, have never felt more confused. It wasn’t anything to do with the band’s talent (as I said, their music was solid), but I have never seen that many white people losing their minds over Black performers the way this crowd was. Had the crowd been more varied—a mix of all races, ages, and stages—I wouldn’t have even noticed. As it was, that unease I’d felt while waiting in line only increased, but it wasn’t until the end of the night that I understood why.
As the show was closing, the husband half of the duo took to the mic and started talking about a documentary he’d seen on Netflix: Amend: The Fight for America (2021). I haven’t seen the doc myself, so all I know is that it’s about the 14th amendment and is hosted by Will Smith—both points the husband somewhat mocked: “That documentary was so divisive,” he said, “they’re calling everyone ‘white’ or ‘Black,’ but aren’t we all human? I don’t know anything about the 14th amendment, but clearly y’all do,” he said in response to the energy shift in the room.
The husband continued, “All I know is the 5th amendment, that’s the good one. And the first—”
“And the second!” a man in the crowd shouted.
“Yeah!” the husband pointed at the man and said, “That one’s pretty good, too!”
He was met with laughter and more cheers. In that moment, I felt afraid to be in that crowd. My friend and I glanced at each other warily, and the husband continued his tangent: from Frederick Douglas historically consoling a white crowd to the Civil Rights Movement to Jesus to how “tired” everyone is of hearing about the plight and struggle of Black people when, after a Black president and the infamous Oscar’s slap, we seem to be doing “pretty okay.”
The audience continued to cheer and nod their heads, eating it up. The husband finished by saying, “When I look at this crowd, I see a group of people I love, not because of their skin color but because they’re breathing. Besides, skin color ain’t nothin’ but flavor anyway!” The crowd roared and the music started up again. Just then I felt a tug on my sleeve and realized my friend was flashing the Bat Signal: it was time to get out of there.
As we walked back to the car, we unloaded our disbelief—and our disappointment. We’d unwittingly walked into an ultra-conservative space where a Black man put down his own people and history in the name of “unity.” And I was finally able to put words to my discomfort: Be wary of Black people whom mostly white people love. Because that love usually means they cater to white comfort.
That exchange about the second amendment has been running through my mind—especially since Nashville. The reaction of that crowd to the husband’s words has been running through my mind, too. What were they celebrating? Why were they cheering? And why, when the husband had a platform to promote real love and real unity, did he do the opposite? The show was peppered with declarations of “God is good!” but my friend and I left with heavy hearts, feeling that whatever that was, it was not what Jesus would do, say, or promote.
Have you ever found yourself in a space where you felt unsafe as a person of color?Leave a Comment