I belong to a racial minority. A minority, I would argue, that is far more underrepresented in the entertainment industry than most others (seriously, name five Asian music artists that you know decently— even I have a hard time with this). Here’s what I have to say about the “so white, you might as well call it Christmas” Spring Fling lineup we have: In all honesty, I don’t care.
When Yale announced its Spring Fling lineup, there was an outcry of people saying that the lineup was too white. It’s still ambiguous to me what exactly that means. I’m guessing it means either one of two things — either the lineup is too ethnically homogenous, or that the music is homogenous and largely caters to a white demographic.
Now, while I would love to see an Asian-American artist take the stage, I’m wary of criticizing Spring Fling on racial grounds. Because, frankly, I just care that the music is good. Could Spring Fling have chosen comparable artists who happened to be more ethnically diverse? Sure. Would that have been a good thing? Probably. It wouldn’t hurt, that’s for sure. But should we criticize the Spring Fling Committee for not doing so? That’s where I begin to feel a little uncertain.
The committee’s primary function is to give us a good concert. That’s the very reason we have this event. In that respect, I don’t think racial considerations should come into play. While an artist’s race and personal experiences can inform his music, it doesn’t determine quality — which is what matters in the end. I don’t believe it’s the Spring Fling Committee’s responsibility to promote minorities in entertainment. While it couldn’t hurt, we need to realize there are much larger forces at play in the industry.
But let’s say you don’t agree with that. Let’s assume we all have a duty to promote fair and diverse representation. It’s certainly a legitimate assumption that many people share. But what kind of diversity should Spring Fling strive to promote? Do we want to promote musical diversity — a variance in the genres that are represented each year — or do we want to focus on the racial diversity of the artists themselves?
Often the two are so intertwined that it’s hard to separate. But for a moment, let’s try to untangle them. Would we rather have an artist who is racially different but stylistically similar to the others, or would we rather have one that is stylistically different but more racially similar? If we could only choose between these two options, which one should we urge the Spring Fling committee to select? This is the point at which opinions may diverge.
I personally am of the opinion that Spring Fling, as an event that revolves around music, should prioritize the promotion of musical diversity. Let’s consider a genre that is often associated with diversity and means a lot to me: hip-hop.
When people criticized Spring Fling for being “too white,” many indicated a desire for a hip-hop artist. Hip-hop is entwined, for good and bad reasons, with a particular socioeconomic environment — low-income, minority communities. It’s easy to conflate a desire for a good hip-hop artist with the desire for an artist from an underrepresented demographic.
I believe that most good hip-hop artists are minorities, and that this is the case because they are able to identify and assail structural oppression. It’s unlikely someone from Greenwich could have produced Kendrick Lamar’s new album, “To Pimp a Butterfly.”
But artists from any background can thrive in the genre. Someone’s race doesn’t preclude their ability to excel at hip-hop. While it may make it harder to understand the origins of the genre, it doesn’t mean that a white artist can’t have excellent technique or lyricism. Just look at Brother Ali or Aesop Rock. I would be upset if either of them had been rejected on diversity grounds for even an Asian-American artist who was musically inferior.
I think that stylistically diverse and insightful artists will generally bring more perspectives on issues that will be more valuable than an Asian-American or African-American artist will by virtue of their race. So when considering artists for Spring Fling, the diversity we look for should be musical, not racial.
Leo Kim is a sophomore in Trumbull College. His column runs on alternate Fridays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .