A country star, accused of racism, is a hit in the United States

Singer Morgan Wallen remains popular and explodes sales records in his country after making insulting remarks in a video released in February 2021.

Under fire from critics a year ago for racial slurs, American country music star Morgan Wallen remains popular in his country, with a second album and a tour that are a hit. A success which poses again, according to its critics, the question of the acceptance of racism in this environment.

Pinned by a video released in early February 2021, where he used insulting vocabulary for African-Americans, the singer was for a time “suspended” by his record label and banned from award ceremonies.

But his second album (Dangerous: The double album), released a month earlier, in January 2021, has nevertheless sold more than three million copies, more than Adele or Olivia Rodrigo. In response to public demand, a second date in his tour was added to the prestigious Madison Square Garden in New York, where the singer was performing on Wednesday and Thursday.

At the time when the «cancel culture»a tendency to ban artists or personalities for their slippages or their racism, is often singled out in the United States, critics of Morgan Wallen regret that he does not have to render more accounts.

A lip service apology

“The sales of his album skyrocketed because people, deep down, feel that we have done too much”explains to AFP Sheryl Guinn, president of the antenna of the famous civil rights organization NAACP in Nashville, cradle of country music, in Tennessee.

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‘Hate runs deep’tweeted at the heart of the controversy singer Mickey Guyton, the first black woman nominated for a Grammy as a solo artist in the country category, who will sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl this weekend.

For Sheryl Guinn, the problem goes beyond country music, a genre often criticized for its leniency in the face of racism. For her, the difficulty is “that America itself does not care enough to eradicate racism”.

Morgan Wallen, whose managers did not respond to AFP, apologized after the video broke, but lip service according to his critics. “I’m disappointed he didn’t do more, but I’m not surprised”explains country historian Charles Hughes, pointing to a “system as a whole” Who “allows (Wallen) to be reinstated without anyone having to justify themselves”.

A controversy that “strengthens its fan base”

“You will never lose money in the United States if you bet on the resentment and the privilege of white people”adds this professor at Rhodes College in Memphis (Tennessee), for whom one would have hoped that, “even without financial incentive”The imperatives “morals” Where “politics” be further considered in this case.

For Nashville-based entertainment attorney and artist manager Zach Scott Gainous, a controversy like the one surrounding Morgan Wallen can even draw attention to the artist in question and “to strenghten” to “fanbase”.

According to Charles Hughes, country in general should “fundamentally rethink who is put forward and why”a structural change that requires more than creating “limited superficial spaces to congratulate each other afterwards”.

In recent years, black musicians in country and folk music, especially women, have thus carved out a space for themselves that the industry has long denied them, reclaiming in their own way a genre whose roots are African-American.

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Beyond the artists, Charles Hughes also calls for recruiting and hiring more black people in all trades in the country music industry. “I think it’s very important to divert our conversation from Wallen”he adds. “There are so many other people doing great work. That’s what we need to focus on right now.”

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