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Why write ‘If I Were A Racist’?

Back in 2020 I wrote a poem called ‘If I Were A Racist’. It was an attempt to look at how racism and white supremacist thought (blatant and adjacent) have helped to shape some of the ways music education is taught and learned. Four years and over 16,000 views later, the ideas within the poem have travelled far and wide, and it’s an honour to know that lecturers and professors around the world regularly use the poem in their classes.


p.13 - This poem was written from the standpoint of what someone might say, do, or think, someone who was invested in maintaining whiteness as the dominant frame of reference, thought, and practice in music education. In essence, if ‘I were a racist’, these are some of the things I would do to maintain my dominance and power in music education, even if I seem to be progressive and inclusive. In this way, you can substitute the phrase ‘If I Were A Racist’, for ‘If I Were A White Supremacist’, to see if that makes a difference in how you think about the content of the poem and the explanations. This poem is far more about how racism creates structures and institutions, than it is about verbal or physical assaults.


Writing this book wasn’t without much hesitation. Given some of the conversations, verbal abuse and critiques of ‘wokeness’ in recent years, even talking about race can be a hazardous task. Bearing in mind that talking about race is only one way we can analyse music education, there is a certain weight attached to talking about the issues that this social construct has produced.


p.12 - This is one of the problems in talking about race. It can be very difficult for Black, Brown and Indigenous educators to be honest about their thoughts and feelings when it comes to race, knowing that the very mention of the word racism results in many people instantly taking that defensive stance of ‘I’m not’. Many of us have been educated in the same systems and ideas we now critique, which creates its own internal conflict, battling against imagery and sound, which is simultaneously native and foreign. All this while existing, learning, and teaching in White spaces, means constantly having to shift, adjust and hide so as not to appear as though our internal dialogue is not telling us to run in the opposite direction. Nevertheless, we are still here, trying in various ways to highlight, critique, and create through lenses of social justice, anti-racism, and decolonisation.


Writing and publishing this short book which expands on each stanza of the poem, represents another way to get these ideas to more people. This book adds to the growing body of literature and research focused on the epistemological and material effects of racism and white supremacist thought. There are many articles and book chapters which discuss these issues, but for folks who do not have access to academic research or can’t afford the £100+ to buy certain books, the information can remain out of reach. I designed this book to be a springboard or introduction to talking about and understanding the interconnectedness and nuance of some of these conversations.


To hear more about why Nate Holder wrote this book, please join us for the ‘If I Were A Racist’ book launch on 30th April 2024.

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