David Bowie made this perfect point about racism in music back in 1983

David Bowie made this perfect point about racism in music back in 1983

David Bowie was well ahead of his time in lots of ways. But now a resurfaced clip of the music icon questioning the whiteness of MTV has resurfaced.

In the clip the interviewer suggests that audiences in the American Midwest would be “scared to death” by a string of black musicians on TV, after Bowie point blank asks why the music channel doesn’t play Black artists.

After complimenting MTV as a “solid enterprise” with “a lot going for it,” Bowie asks;

I’m just floored by the fact that there’s so few black artists featured on it, why is that?

The interviewer tries to justify this programming by saying that MTV “is trying to move in that direction, we want to play artists that fits into what we want to play for MTV.” He suggests that the channel is “narrowcasting,” which means targeting a specific audience rather than the general population.

To which Bowie responds:

That’s evident.

And continues:

It’s evident in the fact that the only few black artists that one does see are on at about 2:30 in the morning to around six. Very few are featured predominantly during the day.

There seem to be a lot of black artists making very good music videos that I’m surprised aren’t on MTV.

The interviewer then seems to suggest that certain places outside of New York or LA, say in the Midwest, would be “scared to death by Prince`’ or “a string of other black faces.”

Bowie, the master of timing, replies:

Isn’t that interesting?

And people were so here for it.

Let us just remind you that Bowie was meant to be the interviewee here.

And that Prince, is *himself* from the Midwest, from Minneapolis Minnesota to be precise.

By calling out the industry that made him, Bowie shows how people in positions of power and privilege can use their platforms to amplify black voices.

And that is an important lesson on allyship... from decades ago.

The Conversation (0)