Column: Country music helped me unlearn certain biases

Helena Edwards, Opinions Writer

As a person who is Black, it’s weird getting into a genre of music that is considered predominantly white. Though there are roots in Black culture, it can’t be ignored that nowadays the country music industry fits that category. 

“Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X was one of the first songs that opened my eyes to Black people being in the country music industry. It is important for me to see aspects of myself in a media in order for me to connect to it. 

Even more recently though, I have been listening to country music intended for the working class. This includes older country that goes more into folk music; I enjoy artists like Woodie Guthrie, Phil Ochs, or Johnny Cash. 

I let myself have this cloudy judgement of country music that it was all about trucks, cornfields, and pretty girls on tractors. What I had blinded myself from was the good music out there that describes working class struggles and is topically similar to the punk music I listen to or is just fun to listen to in general. 

I have also been battling my own internalized classism against demographics that listen to primarily country music; those that may be called hillbillies or rednecks. While there is an issue of poverty leading to ignorance, not every person from these regions that have less access to education can be considered “less than.”  

There is a different kind of work ethic that comes with growing up in a different kind of lifestyle in those regions. 

I grew up in a small town that is predominantly white and while I do not present as such, half of my family is white. 

After a strange Pavlovian response to country music which I associated the negative upbringings of my small-town life with country music, I now am forced to unlearn this classism I have about hillbillies and rednecks. 

Now, my socialist beliefs about hard working-class people who are just trying to make a living have helped me to grow and not stereotype them in this way. 

Helena Edwards can be reached at [email protected]