by Grace O’Connor ’22 A&E Staff
On Feb. 2, Morgan Wallen’s career suffered a major setback, rightfully so, when he was caught using a racial slur by TMZ. According to the Los Angeles Times, Wallen “was taped. . . by a neighbor after Wallen’s group made a lot of noise honking and hollering.” He aimed this racial slur at one of the men in his group. This unacceptable incident caught the public’s attention, leading Wallen to issue a public apology, saying he was “embarrassed and sorry.” He went on to say that “there is no excuse for this type of language ever.”
Following Wallen’s appalling actions, two major radio stations suspended Wallen’s label indefinitely and he was made ineligible for the Academy of Country Music Awards this spring. His contract at Big Loud Records, based in Nashville, TN, has been suspended as well. Fellow country star Mickey Guyton tweeted, “This is not his first time using that ‘unacceptable’ racial slur, and we all know that. So what exactly are y’all going to do about it. Crickets won’t work this time.” Nate Deaton, general manager of KRTY-FM (95.3) San Jose, took a firm stand: “His recent behavior is not in keeping with standards expected in society. . .we are suspending all airplay at this time.”
An apology for Wallen’s actions simply is not good enough. He will never be looked at the same after this incident, not only by society, but by his dedicated fans. A telling statement made by Black singer-songwriter, Rissi Palmer, illustrates how there are many more underlying issues brought to light by Wallen’s statement. Palmer claims, “The systematic racism is what keeps artists of color out. It’s what enables behavior like Wallen’s past and present actions. Sure, Wallen was stamped out for now, what about the label heads that won’t sign artists of color or LGBTQ+ artists? What about the radio stations that only play a limited amount of songs and all those spots go to white men? That’s the bigger work. That’s the bigger picture.” While the country music industry’s response to Wallen’s racist behavior reveals that the industry is taking steps towards becoming more accountable, there is much more work to be done in the areas of diversity and inclusion.