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Jazz Legend Wynton Marsalis: Rap, not Racism, to Blame for Plight of Black Community

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Published on: May 24, 2018

Jazz legend Wynton Marsalis recently sat down for an interview with The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart.

Capehart, a widely read lefty, was likely leading his interviewee towards ground that he thought would allow Marsalis to criticize Donald Trump and the Republican Party. However, he was in for a surprise.

While Marsalis is not generally involved in much politicking these days but he’s got an opinion about the racial problems our nation faces today.

When Capehart asked Marsalis about playing jazz during a time of racial unrest, Marsalis focused on culture which he argued is upstream of politics (and he’s right).

Marsalis argued that events like the Charlottesville unrest or Donald Trump’s election have much less to do with racism than the cultural mores that the black community has adopted. He said, “we’ve lost our grip on our morality in the black community… using pornography and profanity and addressing ourselves in the lowest, most disrespectful form.”

Marsalis continued by describing the impact that rap and hiphop culture have had on the black community, and how it has been more negatively impactful than statues of Souther Civil War leaders could ever be.

You can’t have a pipeline of filth be your default position, and it’s free. Now, the nation is entertained by that. It’s not free. Just like the toll the minstrel show took on black folks and on white folks. Now all this “nigga” this, “bitch” that, “ho” that, it’s just a fact at this point.

For me, it was not a default position in the ’80s. Now that it is the default position, how you like me now? You like what it’s yielding? Something is wrong with you, you need your head examined if you like this. It’s almost like adults left the room or something…

I do not like [rap]. And it doesn’t matter that I don’t like it. And I recognize that. But I’m from the Civil Rights movement. I was called a nigger. And I’m not talking about in my neighborhood, which of course that went on. I’m talking about, for me, I don’t like the fact of drums going away. I don’t mind the computers. They’re fine. But they can’t replace the people… There’s a movement now to drag public music education down into that? Pssh! It’s almost comical to me…

My words are not that powerful. I started saying in 1985 I don’t think we should have a music talking about niggas and bitches and hoes. It had no impact. I’ve said it. I’ve repeated it. I still repeat it. To me, that’s more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee…

I feel that that’s much more of a racial issue than taking Robert E. Lee’s statue down. There’s more niggas in that than there is in Robert E. Lee’s statue.

While Marsalis lays much of the black community’s problems to blame at their own feet, that doesn’t mean he’s a fan of the current political hierarchy or of Donald Trump.

But you can hear more of his thoughts in the entire interview below:

Article posted with permission from

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