Blog post

White Riot on the Air

Francisco Salas11 November 2011

Stephen Duncombe and Maxwell Tremblay's White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race is continuing to spark wildly overdue conversations on the role of race in music culture. One of these much needed and often awkward conversations was broadcast on the Michael Eric Dyson ShowAnother, a conversation between the editors and Souciant magazine, is transcribed online.

In their Souiciant interview, Steve and Max talk about White supremacy, the historicization of punk, and how people of color had already done much of their editorial work for them:

[Stephen Duncombe]: Luckily, we didn't have to [articulate the racial identity of punks of color], because punks of color did that work for us in a number of ways. One thing we did do is showcase the history of non-white punks in punk that has always been there from the beginning. It ain't hard to do, OK? You look at Bad Brains. Or you look at Black Flag. When they're singing "White Minority," the lead singer is Puerto Rican, the drummer is Latino, the producer is black. But somehow that gets written out of punk and we think of Henry Rollins, the Über White Guy, as identified with Black Flag. So some of it was just resurrecting the real history of punk rock which, while the majority, demographically, is white, has hardcore contributions from punks of color from the get-go.

Visit Souciant magazine for the full interview.

With cultural critic, author, academic and public intellectual Michael Eric Dyson, Duncombe and Tremblay explored the motivations that led them to put together their anthology:

It's because it wasn't the most obvious subject, but it's been obvious to anybody who's been part of the punk scene for a long time. The punk scene is about race. it's about race from its very get-go, not just [about] the inclusion of punks of color, but also [about] how whites try to define their whiteness growing up in a multicultural society. So we think, actually—and sort of the premise of the book is—you can't really understand punk rock without also grappling with the issue of race.

By "teasing out the threads" of an ongoing conversation on race among punks, White Riot brings together zinemakers, academics, and musicians' voices to analyze the critical discourse produced, but often ignored, on punk racialization. As the history of punk and the color line, the conflict that emerges is about the future of the scene. The last section of the book includes

the stories of kids—punks of color—who enter into the punk scene hoping for a scene outside of the world of racism, but find instead that that racism has continued into the scene, and the real struggle to either stay in and fight it out or actually leave the scene.

Visit the Michael Eric Dyson Show online to hear the segment in full.