Our favorite Anti-Racism Songs

By Staff

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With all that’s currently happening in the world right now and how the power of music seems to pull us all together, we felt like it was an appropriate time to compile a list of our 10 favorite anti-racism tunes.

Of course, there are many more that could’ve made the list but these are our favorites.

Black Bird by The Beatles

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When asked about the song Paul McCartney said,

'I had in mind a black woman, rather than a bird. Those were the days of the civil rights movement, which all of us cared passionately about, so this was really a song from me to a black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: “Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith; there is hope.”

As is often the case with my things, a veiling took place, so rather than saying, “Black woman living in Little Rock” and being very specific, she became a bird, became symbolic, so you could apply it to your particular problem.'

Fight the Power by Public Enemy

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While flying over Italy on the tour, Chuck D was inspired to write most of the song. He recalled his idea, "I wanted to have sorta like the same theme as the original 'Fight the Power' by The Isley Brothers and fill it in with some kind of modernist views of what our surroundings were at that particular time." The group's bass player Brian Hardgroove has said of the song's message, "Law enforcement is necessary. As a species we haven’t evolved past needing that. Fight the Power is not about fighting authority—it’s not that at all. It’s about fighting abuse of power."

Ebony and Ivory by Paul McCartney and Steve Wonder

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At the simplest level, the song is about the ebony (black) and ivory (white) keys on a piano, but also deals with integration and racial harmony on a deeper, human level. The title was inspired by McCartney hearing Spike Milligan say "black notes, white notes, and you need to play the two to make harmony, folks!".[4] The figure of speech is much older. It was popularized by James Aggrey in the 1920s, inspiring the title of the pan-African journal The Keys, but was in use from at least the 1840s.

Mr. Nigga by Mos Def

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Text by Universität Gießen

Although the song “Mr. Nigga” was never released as a single from the album Black on Both Sides, it is certainly one of the most powerful recordings of rap history, especially in its acrimonious depiction of race, or rather blackness, as a transcultural signifier of difference. The song, as I seek to illustrate, references a variety of pivotal concepts intersecting with skin color in discourses of race, while it simultaneously enters intertextual relationships with a different set of cultural texts, most notably other musical texts that need to be illuminated to contextualize the song. Firstly, the song’s significance on the album is already found expressed in the choice of title: “Mr. Nigga” obviously catches the audience’s immediate attention, if only for the appropriation of the pejorative racial slur. The term’s re-appropriation in rap music discourse has generated wide public interest and a controversial debate in the context of the so-called “culture wars” in the early 1990s in the United States; the nexus “Mr. Nigga,” a combination of the pejorative racial slur and the rather formal address “Mr.”, immediately sets the tone of the song in that it opens up the field of tension that the lyrics of the song explicate.


Too young to die by Jamiroquai

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The commercial single includes all three versions of the track. The song's lyrics are about the fear of war and death due to political machinations. A music video was shot for "Too Young to Die". It was directed by W.I.Z., and consisted mainly of Jay Kay singing in what appears to be a desert military installation. The single's cover art depicts Jay Kay in the background, looking into the camera, with a sky-blue "grill" of the Buffalo Man in the left, as hollow spots, which are slowly morphing into solid blue crosses, headstones, the polar opposites to the meaning of the buffalo man. This morphing happens as one moves their eyes from left to right over the cover of the single. There is also a banner near the bottom of the sleeve which has several images on it, including a picture of a baby with a caption beside it reading "Too Young to Die", an image of the mushroom cloud, and a Swastika, with the latter having a red "X" over it.

The Way it is by Bruce Hornsby

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The opening verse recounts a story taking place at a line for welfare that illustrates a divide between the rich and poor. The chorus presents several lines insisting that social ills are "just the way it is", and repeatedly suggests resigning oneself to them as a fact of life—however, the chorus ends with the author rebuking this attitude by insisting "but don't you believe them."

The second verse recounts past social issues from the voice of someone supporting racial segregation. The author responds in a narrative voice, insisting his view that if those who make laws took them into careful consideration they would be convinced that laws enforcing principles like racial segregation are morally wrong. The song reminds the listener that it was at one time argued that racial segregation was "just the way it is", and suggests that legislation and what the author views as progress on current social issues should be pursued without regard to those who insist "some things will never change."

The third verse recounts the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a victory in the civil rights movement, but insists that more is needed. In particular, the verse highlights individual prejudice and employment discrimination as an enduring form of racism. The third chorus suggests that it only feels like "some things will never change" when we wait for social problems to change themselves rather than taking steps ourselves to actively change them.

China Girl by David Bowie

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The music video, featuring New Zealand model Geeling Ng, was directed by David Mallet and shot mainly in the Chinatown district of Sydney, Australia. Along with his previous single's video for "Let's Dance" with the critique of racism in Australia, Bowie described the video as a "very simple, very direct" statement against racism.

Say it loud - I’m Black and I’m Proud by James Brown

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In the song, Brown addresses the prejudice towards blacks in America, and the need for black empowerment. He proclaims that "we demands a chance to do things for ourself/we're tired of beating our head against the wall/and workin' for someone else". The song's call-and-response chorus is performed by a group of young children, who respond to Brown's command of "Say it loud" with "I'm black and I'm proud!" The song was recorded in a Los Angeles area suburb with about 30 young people from the Watts and Compton areas.

The Story of OJ by Jay-Z

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The video uses a style similar to the Censored Eleven cartoons, depicting several well-known stereotypes associated with African Americans. Among other things, the video touches on African American culture, various roles within the black community, and how the black community is affected by money. O. J. Simpson (the song's namesake) is featured saying the rumored line, "I'm not black, I'm O.J.", a reference to the idea that wealth, notoriety, and fame can transcend race. The video was ranked the best music video of 2017 by Rolling Stone.

New Slaves by Kanye West

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In a 2014 interview with Zach Baron of GQ, West claimed to have engaged in numerous meetings that included what he dubbed as "Stay in your place" type conversations. They were described as what led him "to the point of creating 'New Slaves' and 'Blood on the Leaves' and the entire Yeezus album, and to make the album basically like a protest in music.