During a Unifying America segment on CBS This Morning, journalist Anthony Mason discussed the Morgan Wallen situation and country music's horrible track record when it comes to pushing Black artists to superstardom with country singers and songwriters Maren Morris, Ryan Hurd, Rissi Palmer and Vince Gill.
An admittedly nervous Gill mostly favored singing out over speaking out, playing an excerpt from a new song titled "March On, March On" which admits that "400 years of history couldn't be more wrong" and references Civil Rights great John Lewis' famous quote about getting in "good trouble" for just causes.
Gill also challenged a couple of common misconceptions, starting with a certain false equivalency that's been used ad nauseam on social media regarding Wallen's use of the "n-word."
"White America, when they make the argument, 'Well, I hear it in rap music all the time...' Have you not been paying attention to the last 3-400 years, how that word has been used by the white community?," Gill said. "It's derogatory, dismissive and hurtful. It doesn't have a place."
The Country Music Hall of Fame member and Grand Ole Opry star then questioned assumptions that the Nashville community inherently leans right.
"I think most people perceive that country music is extremely conservative and I'm not sure that's true," Gill added. "Maybe the audience might be conservative, I don't know that the artistry is. I don't know that the community is, so there's a rub in there."
Hurd, co-writer of Wallen's "Heartless," agreed that "there's no place for that word," while Morris referred to Wallen's use of a racial slur as "a symptom of a much bigger disease of what our genre is right now."
"I think the only way we can move forward is by deconstructing our view of what the genre is built on and acknowledging at its roots is racism and cultural appropriation, and completely disjoin that mentality going forward," Morris added.
EXTENDED INTERVIEW: Watch more of @AnthonyMasonCBS’ conversation with Vince Gill (@VGcom), @MarenMorris, @RyanHurd & @RissiPalmer about the state of country music right now. https://t.co/VG6uRswF7q pic.twitter.com/NRw4YxrNpB
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) February 17, 2021
While Gill said it can be scary to speak up because "your intentions can be so good and then you can get just ripped," Morris shared a much different perspective.
"The world is looking at us right now," Morris said. "People are starting to speak up. We are not protecting our own with this wall of silence because we are afraid we might be get canceled next. It's like, 'No, we are all becoming more accountable'."
Palmer, who became the first Black woman to hit the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 20 years in 2007, is the host of Apple Music's Color Me Country. Per its description, Color Me Country "brings to the forefront the Black, Indigenous, and Latinx histories of country music that for too long have lived outside the spotlight and off mainstream airwaves." Its name references a song by one of the all-time great African American country artists, Linda Martell.
The show offers Palmer a means to impact an industry she loves, despite professional setbacks caused by the harmful mindsets she's working to change.
"I knew in the very beginning that there weren't a lotta people that'll look like me. And I knew that that was gonna be a mountain that I was gonna have to climb," Palmer said. "But I love the music. I love the songwriting; I love the storytelling, the way it makes me feel...I'm a fan."