In the wake of the SB1070 Supreme Court decision, responses are fast and furious from all parts of the Latino and Latino allied communities. There are laws like the TRUST Act in California which seek to mitigate the impact of racial profiling in immigration enforcement, there are press releases, protests and music videos.
Last month a band named Outernational teamed up with Tom Morello, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith, Residente from Calle 13 and pop/Latin rock producer, Thom Russo released the title track from their album Todos Somos Ilegales / We are All Illegal along with some non-profit support from the organization Cuentame (whom I have collaborated with in the past). I originally was asked to post the video when it was released and upon seeing it was kinda uncomfortable. The title set off some bells with me as did the video. After all, we all are not clearly illegal – meaning we all are not going to be targeted by laws like SB1070 and racial profiling. I knew just the use of that word would set off controversy since as we all know “no human being is illegal” and there is even a whole campaign to Drop the I Word. In fact just after the release of this video there was a series of back and forth editorials about the use of the word “illegal”. Some argue, quite effectively, I would add, that the issue should be less about the word and the actual ways in which white supremacy plays out through policies and practices.
What I grow more concerned about is the blurring of the line between real artistic activism and self-promotion. Is it about an artist’s history? Their evolution? Will for example we see Outernational engage more with work in Arizona that has already been going down pre and post SB1070? The tracks off their album suggest that the track is more than just a one off but is the album more than a political novelty? Only time will tell.
I think it’s a really important question especially when viewed through a gendered lens. Certainly macho grandstanding and posturing a la what I think Calle 13 does sometimes is fairly common among artists and activists. Prominent French/Chilena rapera Ana Tijoux aligned herself with the Alto Arizona campaign and released a new video for her single Shock.
Ana Tijoux’s music videos have always been aligned with movements. For example, the original video for Shock actually was related to the student protest movement in Chile, a connection that seems more organic considering Tijoux is the child of exiles from the Pinochet dictatorship. So this new video version of Shock begs the question of who is using who in such collaborations? Is it pushing for album or ticket sales. It can’t be coincidence that the release of this new video coincides with Tijoux’s tour and appearance at the Latin Alternative Music Conference in NYC. Or are non-profits hitching their work onto artists in order to push their agenda and gain more supporters? The current state of media blurs these lines, meaning we need to listen and look a little more closely when we consume.