The unrest happening in the United States right now has caused many celebrities and public figures to speak out against racism who have often stayed quiet in the past. And as bittersweet as it is to see that we’ve potentially reached that kind of tipping point where people finally HAVE to pay attention, it is, of course, still better than their continued silence.
But some of those speaking up have a long history of pushing back against racism and injustice, even if some of those stories are just now coming to light.
For instance, Paul McCartney recently shared that The Beatles refused to play a segregated concert in Florida back in 1964, potentially helping shift venues away from continuing the racist practice of separating Black and white people in their audiences.
“In 1964, The Beatles were due to play Jacksonville in the US and we found out that it was going to be a segregated audience. It felt wrong,” he wrote. “We said ‘We’re not doing that!’ And the concert we did do was to their first non-segregated audience.
“We then made sure this was in our contract. To us it seemed like common sense.”
His recollection comes alongside a broader denouncement of racism, and concern for the future.
“I feel sick and angry that here we are almost 60 years later and the world is in shock at the horrific scenes of the senseless murder of George Floyd at the hands of police racis, along with the countless others that came before.
“All of us here support and stand alongside all those who are protesting and raising their voices at this time. I want justice for George Floyd’s family, I want justice for all those who have died and suffered. Saying nothing is not an option.”
And his story also highlights what those of us with privilege can do to help make changes in the world.
No, most of us aren’t The Beatles, shaping culture with every single decision we make. But the idea that The Beatles were able to force venues not to segregate audiences for their concerts by insisting it was a stipulation of them performing at all is something we can all still take to heart in our own professional and personal lives.
Refusing to allow inequality to happen around us — no matter how harmless it may seem — is a choice all of us can make, and we don’t have to be famous musicians in order to make it.