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Pearl Jam Reflect on “Unconscious Racism” and “White Voices Overtaking the Narrative”

on June 04, 2020, 2:43pm

After the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, many would-be white allies rushed to post on social media without reflecting on whether using a hashtag or sharing a meme was the best use of their privilege. Now Pearl Jam — apparently one of the least problematic legacy acts in music today — have waded into uncomfortable gray areas, interrogating their own “unconscious racism” and wrestling with the persistent issue of “white voices overtaking the narrative that the Black community is sharing.”

In a concise series of tweets, the grunge legends stated that “Pearl Jam was started with a love for music and social justice.” The statement continued,

“Our organization has been reflecting on where unconscious racism is still showing up in our own lives and how we can do better. While we continue to dig in, we do not want to contribute to white voices overtaking the narrative that the Black community is sharing. It is the responsibility of each of us to listen and educate ourselves on how to be better humans sharing this planet.”

The thread concluded with a “Possible starting point”: the article “Performative Allyship Is Deadly (Here’s What to Do Instead)” by writer and social justice advocate Holiday Phillips. Phillips identifies four signs that a gesture on social media is more performative than helpful: It is short (a few words or an image); it expresses itself as anger or disbelief, as if acts of racism are surprising instead of the daily life of many people; it lacks personal responsibility, and instead of blaming systemic issues, it seeks out specific villains such as a single crooked cop; and most especially, it’s met with praise for the person posting it. Phillips also offers suggestions for what to do instead, which you can find by reading the article.


On June 10th, Pearl Jam will be participating in the All in WA: A Concert for COVID-19 Relief. On their March album Gigatonthe rockers explored some of the great social issues facing society today, including making a climate conscious video for “Retrograde” starring Greta Thunberg.


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