Black Lives, Black Votes, and Hardcore: Ricky Walker, Jr., Toledo, OH

Ricky Walker, JR., weighs in on Black Lives Matter, Donald Trump, and the hardcore music scene. For Ricky’s full interview on fatherhood, click herericky voting pic

1. We endured a bizarre presidential campaign in 2016 and now we are in uncharted territory with the Donald Trump presidency. How involved are you politically? What are your thoughts on the current administration?

I consider myself fairly politically engaged, though not as active as I would like to be.

The current administration is atrocious, absurd, racist, terrible, etc. It is, no doubt, all of those things, but the popular narrative of, primarily, mainstream liberals that it represents a real departure or uncharted territory in terms of how profoundly racist it is strikes me as wrong.

To be clear, I’m not implying that this is what you were saying or that you’re a mainstream liberal. This administration is certainly operating in uncharted territory in terms of the ineptitude of the President. In fact, were it not for the (overwhelmingly important) fact that Trump’s election and the power it has granted him and his cronies/handlers access to will deepen the miseries of the most vulnerable, there might be cause for laughter.

Trump has done much to illustrate the falsehood of the idea that the wealthy and powerful and business elites must have earned their positions through hard work and adeptness. He also stands as a rebuttal to the worst-conceived arguments against regulation and bureaucracy disingenuously presenting themselves as populist. It should be clear to people that the idea “Fuck all these rules and shit. We need a guy to cut through all this red tape and say what’s on his mind and put our immediate goals above all else- World be damned! We’ll figure out the specifics and the legality later,” is terribly conceived.

Unfortunately, mainstream Democrats, mainstream liberals, and much of the mainstream self-identified left has opted (very consciously in the case of the Democratic Party and mainstream media) to present Trump’s racism, sexism, transphobia, xenophobia, gross environmental negligence, pursuit of short term strategic goals, and firmly espoused belief in American exceptionalism as a departure from “decent American values” as opposed to an exemplar of those values- albeit a ham-fisted, particularly strategically inept, and inelegant one. Trump is essentially American values and hubris on steroids (and American pursuits in fast forward).

But, the prevailing message has been that of mainstream Democrats that Trump is an assault on what America is and has historically been. This allows the people who are rightly outraged that anti-black racial resentments, anti-Muslim sentiment, and anti- immigrant sentiment accounted  for much of Trump’s popularity with white voters to pretend that those behaviors are completely alien to anything they support. The concealment and ignoring of drone bombing civilians, the advancing of trade policies that assure and entrench income inequality far starker than anything we see within this country, and the enriching of oneself by being a cheerleader for and gatekeeper of those policies -all things that overwhelmingly victimize people of color- are somehow things other than bigotry.

I had a friend become upset with me when I pointed out that Trump’s bombing of a Syrian airfield- something that arguably contradicted the image of him as a Kremlin stooge- was a far softer version of what Senator Clinton was advocating literally a day before. I know a lot of people who are like this; people for whom referencing decades of disastrous US realpolitik and foreign policy that is aimed at preserving short term strategic goals is tantamount to supporting Trump or ignoring the danger he presents.

2. What is the Black Lives movement like within your community and/or within your music scene?

Here in the greater Toledo area- actually, I’ll say in Toledo more specifically because I don’t see much activity in the whiter, more affluent surrounding suburbs- there is a pretty active Black Lives Matter presence. Some of the folks involved are black activists who are also becoming more successfully involved in local government. (Julian Mack and Ruth Courtney come to mind, but there are other people as well.) There is, among the truly progressive and/or left movements fairly nice cross-support between sets of issues. LGBTQ+, antiracism, police issues, and their various intersections. Having said that, I also don’t want to overstate things or make Toledo seem more progressive than it is. There’s definitely plenty of conservatism, complacency, (what I’ll call) status-affirming faux activism, and the assorted problems that come with gentrification, trying to make the city more like an urban metropolis, and aspirational wealth,

3. Do you see a connection between the Black Lives movement and the punk/hardcore scene in general?

Ostensibly, punk and hardcore are supposed to be hotbeds of Left, radical, and/or progressive thought. Opposition to anti-black racism and bigotry in general should be part and parcel of that. And while I think there are large swathes of various punk communities that are taking commitments to these issues seriously and acting accordingly, I’ve been involved in punk long enough to know that there are also huge subsections of people who are largely hangers-on whose commitments are more aesthetic, as well as people who are simply attracted to extremes. In that regard, it doesn’t surprise me at all to see people who were incredibly infatuated with the fascist and racist iconography and assorted dodgy individuals (be they racist black metallers, dodgy rape and racism enthusiast noise artists, or other shit-stirrers/self-conceived public intellectuals) that were en vogue a few years back in hardcore punk now espousing a commitment to antiracism, leftist politics, and justice, generally. Where this represents an actual change in thinking and genuine growth, I support it. I don’t begrudge people the opportunity to change for the better. But where it represents a crass aesthetic maneuver, I don’t respect it.

4. By the time your child is your age, what do you hope the Black Lives movement, or similar movements, accomplish?

I hope that by the time Ricky T is my age that we’ll see a broader commitment to and affirmation of human rights and dignity across the board. My hope is that the goals of Black Lives Matter, more specifically, come to be understood by a much greater portion of the population and that far more people come to recognize and oppose the various mechanisms whereby black people are devalued, and to recognize that there has been an actual, protracted devaluation of black people that goes from what most people now correctly recognize as the most explicit dehumanizations, to malicious or indifferent criminalization, active and “passive” racial redlining, other forms of social exclusion, and the enforcement of the idea that black people collectively have contributed little or nothing of value to the world. It is my hope that those who come to or already do advocate Black Lives Matter domestically recognize the parallels between it and the fight against the dehumanization and degradation of people globally (which, so there’s no confusion, I think many of those currently active in BLM already get- My last criticism is speaking to those who think that Trump is evil incarnate, but that US foreign policy, the global inequality that provides us with conveniences, and other dehumanizations are either not evil or “unfortunate inevitabilities” not meriting the same level if outrage.) I want my child to live in a world where it is morally inconceivable that anyone bomb civilians to death, trap people in wage or other slavery, or behave as though people on “our” landmass are deserving of greater consideration than everyone else.

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