Metal & Racism: How Many More Chances for Phil Anselmo?

Last week, concert footage showed Phil Anselmo – former lead singer of Pantera, and currently in the band Down – sieg heiling and yelling “White Power!”

At first, Anselmo said it was a joke and he would not apologize. So unsurprisingly this is not the first time Anselmo has been involved in promoting racism and oppression. According to Metal Hammer:

The unpalatable truth, however, beyond Anselmo’s iconic image is that the man has ‘previous’ in this area. Following the release of 1994’s Far Beyond Driven album, the singer was interviewed by MTV about allegations of racist undertones in his lyrics. Wearing a T-shirt from the controversial New York crossover band Carnivore depicting three interlocking number 7s – a symbol employed by the South African white supremacist Afrikaner Resistance Movement – Anselmo dismissed the accusation but stopped short of condemning Pantera fans who shouted “White Power” at gigs, saying “I ain’t them kids, and them kids are going to yell what they’re going to yell anyway.”

In March 1995, during a Pantera show in Montreal, the then 26-year-old Anselmo told the crowd that while “Pantera are not a racist band” and that he and his bandmates had friends “of all colours and all kinds”, he had a problem with rap artists “pissing all over white culture”. Furthermore, Anselmo continued, pleas from the African-American community to end ‘Black on Black crime’ should be interpreted as “it’s okay to kill white people”: white people, the singer insisted, needed to take more pride in who they are.

“Tonight,” Anselmo concluded, “is a white thing.”

The singer later apologised for his rant, and the “harmful words that may have racially offended our audience”, but the controversy dogged him for years. In recent years, in his more reflective moments, Anselmo – a thoughtful man, for all his bullish, anti-intellectual John Doe bravado – was not slow to acknowledge the power of symbolism and speech to propagate hatred and division. In a 2015 interview with the Hard Rock Haven website the singer admitted that “with hindsight” he wouldn’t have incorporated a Confederate flag in the cover artwork of Superjoint Ritual’s debut album, and conceded that some of the lyrical content on the band’s second album A Lethal Dose Of American Hatred (which on Stealing A Page Or Two From Armed And Radical Pagans railed against “the coward Muḥammad” and “Jewish elitists”) was “regrettable.”

This has seemed to finally created a public debate among fans of metal – a genre which has its very own subgenre of explicitly neo-Nazi bands (NSBM) – about exactly what they are going to tolerate.

Machine Head’s Robb Flynn made a very poignant video addressing Anselmo’s behavior which is well worth a watch.

Shortly thereafter, and seeing his career sinking before his eyes, Anselmo made an incredibly unreflective apology, saying alcohol was the cause of the Hitler salute, and begging his fans to “gimme another chance.”

Sometime people should be given another chance; we’ve seen boneheads leave the White Power scene and become anti-racist activists. But why should Anselmo get yet another chance? What is this – his fourth, fifth, sixth… tenth, twentieth time?

The Dutch music festival FortaRock has pulled Anselmo’s current band, Down, from their upcoming line up.  This is a good start.

The metal community has given Anselmo many, many chances: it’s time to stop talking about forgiveness and start talking about giving him No Platform. No shows, no interviews, no radio play, no nothing.

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