Black Music vs. White Music: Growing Up in America

I grew up in Southern California during the flashy 1980s. During my childhood, I lived in an African American and Latino neighborhood in East Long Beach; however, I was bused to school in the primarily white Belmont Shore neighborhood.

It was exhilarating, confusing, and emotionally draining to reside in a “black” neighborhood while attending school in a “white” neighborhood. It was like living on a front line of a cultural war between two influential clans.

All my teachers were white. The school principals and administrators were white. Out of 500 students in our school, there were only 50 black students. We black people were outnumbered by white people at school. I was submerged into a whole new cultural tradition.

During my childhood, many people made a distinction between “white music” and “black music”. Somehow, we believed that music possessed a skin color.

While I was in our black neighborhood, we listened to “black music” such as the rap artists: LL Cool J, Kurtis Blow, Run DMC, Ice-T, NWA, JJ Fadd, Will Smith, and Rob Base. We also listened to black singers such as Janet Jackson, Prince, Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Donna Summer, Anita Baker, and Stephanie Mills.

Since there were Spanish-speaking people in my neighborhood, I learned basic Spanish and listened to Latino artists such as: Los Bukis, Vicente Fernandez, Jorge Negrete, Javier Solis, Marisela, Ana Gabriel, Alejandra Guzman, Sparx, Pandora, Mana, Luis Migel, Christian Castro, and Timbiriche, However, the Latino community was separate from the black community.

Once I was bused to “white” schools, my mind exploded with new themes and images. There were bands such as: The Go Go’s, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, The Cure, The Smiths, Madonna, and The Pet Shop Boys. Some of these bands are British.

The new channel known as “MTV” broadcast “white” music such as: Guns & Roses, Metallica, Skid Row, Bon Jovi, U2, Van Halen, and Cyndi Lauper.

In my childhood world, it made perfect sense to divide between “us” and “them”; between “black” and “white”. Our city of Long Beach was also separated into racial communities; with racial minorities living in the inner city and white people living along the costal areas. Each racial group occupied its own cultural space—separate and apart.

Certain African American artists such as Michael Jackson, Prince, and Whitney Houston “crossed over” into the white world. This means that both black people and white people listened to their musical artistry.

In the world where I grew up, there was no such thing as “mixed race” or “biracial”. Anyone who was mixed with black was considered 100% black. For example, Princess Meghan Markle would be considered 100% black because she has a black mother. There was rule called “the one drop rule”: if a person has one drop of black blood, then the person is 100% black.

When I fell in love with music by white bands such as Depeche Mode and Guns & Roses and U2, I was accused of “acting white”, “dancing white”, and “talking white”. In retrospect, this seems like a very simplistic way to divide music.

Today in 2020, some of these racial divides within American music continue to exist. In the United States, both hard rock music and country music are mainly “white” music; whereas, hip hop music and R&B music are mainly “black” music.

I was born and raised in an intense black world. However, all my educational experiences occurred in a white world. Since my world was divided, I also became internally divided against myself.

As I grow older and undergo Freudian psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, my goal is to “integrate” the black world and the white world into a healthy world.   The ideas and concepts of Dr. Sigmund Freud are helping me to unleash my unconscious mind and integrate “blackness” and “whiteness” into a unified, healthy whole person.

I would like to leave you with the following questions: Does music have a skin color or race? Is there a distinction between “black music” and “white music”? Should human beings focus on racial integration or racial separation? Is our world still divided along racial lines?

As my maternal grandmother used to say: “Red, yellow, black, and white, we are all holy in God’s sight”.

About the Author
Licensed Attorney. Specialist on Jewish Affairs. Former Rabbinical Student: Aish HaTorah College in Jerusalem and Machon Meir College in Jerusalem. Former student of Rabbi Noach Weinberg and Rabbi Dov Begon of Jerusalem. Former Staff Attorney to Governor Pete Wilson of California. Former Assistant Intern to United States Senator Barbara Boxer. Former Intern for Mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert and Jerusalem Spokesperson Haggai Elias. Israel Defense Forces 2000-2005. United States Army 2006-2008. Recipient of National Defense Service Medal, 2006. Israel Defense Forces Inspirational Soldier Award 2001. Licensed driver of the "Merkava" battle tank. Mr. Barack Mandela is a financial donor to: Harvard Law School, Yale Law School, Stanford Law School, Princeton University, UC Berkeley Law School, UC Hastings Law School, Columbine High School, Sidwell Friends School, Choate Rosemary Hall, Eton College in the United Kingdom, St. Andrew's Episcopal School, and the British Red Cross. He is a former member of both the World Jewish Congress and the NAACP. He considers himself an "honorary graduate" of Columbine High School. He earned a BA degree from the University of California at Riverside; he earned a Doctor of Law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. He was an international student at: Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law and University of Costa Rica School of Law.
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