Dear Ms. Harriet,
Do you ever get musical madness? That’s what I call it. I shop. I dine out. I get around. In most places, people don’t look Black like me. You can hear all kinds of talk about how the help, those cleaning and cooking, tend to be black or otherwise not White. Why don’t we also talk about the heavy use of Black music—from blues to jazz to Motown? The White folks around me are courteous enough—some after I assure them I really am going to make a purchase. (I do get tired of that.) Why are Blacks used to set the mood and to set and clean the table, yet still not invited to sit down? I realize you’ve got more pressing things than this musical madness to think about, but this ‘Ms. Harriet lite’ stuff gets to me, at times as much as anything else we face.
Regards, Musically Miffed
Dear Musically Miffed,
Seems like you just want to sing along, yes? Go on now. Alter them lyrics while you’re at it. “Oh, I wanna dance with somebody… after I buy this with cash.” Whitney may not have sung that, but it seems she’d have gotten behind it. Seriously though, what you describe as musical madness strikes me as a kind of last straw. In making a safe space for the Ones or those whose success is unique within their family, I’ve noticed that it can take an unusual amount of stress for us Ones to go there. So, first, take a deep breath. And, maybe another.
Musical madness or cultural appropriation of Black music
Just like you and me, service industry researchers know there ain’t nothin light about black music. It moves us. A store’s climate, interior design, lighting and—yes—music impact sales. They influence whether shoppers linger or return. As a result, either can lead to more spending. Attentive decisions surrounding these details combine with the lack of diversity in corporate decision-making to underscore with a bold marker what you call musical madness. Those store speakers pipe in evidence of cultural appropriation, which happens enough that there’s a primer about it. They seem to announce, ‘your arts and culture can help, but leave the hard work of running the business to us.’
What can you do? Hang in there, Miffed. Most of all, keep speaking out. Mention what you notice on comment cards or in online surveys. Also, talk with friends, other Ones you may know, and those from all backgrounds about this madness. Finally, if it’ll help keep your stress in check, support Black-owned establishments (check out www.Maggieslist.com, the Buy Black Movement or MWBE) or shop online… with the sound turned off.