On Tuesday morning, I found myself running a quick errand, and I happened to have on my radio the SiriusXM channel Lithium, which typically features ’90s alternative and grunge music. During this ride, I happened to catch the beginning of Tom Morello’s One Man Revolution program. Morello has played with Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave and has had his SiriusXM show since 2019.
I’ve honestly never heard it before, but I quickly became intrigued because of what he had decided to play… and why. See, Morello had decided to celebrate Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in Confederate states. This in itself was no big deal, but how he was celebrating that struck a bad chord with me. Morello “celebrated” Juneteenth by playing what he described as “anti-police brutality anthems.”
“I’m Tom Morello, and this is my One Man Revolution, right here on SiriusXM Lithium,” Morello said opening his show. “We are celebrating Juneteenth during this, uh, program here so for the next hour or so I’ll be commandeering your radio dial to play some anti-police brutality anthems to celebrate Juneteenth, which is, of course, a black liberation day here in the United States…”
Songs like “Sound of Da Police” by KRS-One, “41 Shots” by Bruce Springsteen, and “F*** Tha Police” by N.W.A. were played by the time I got home. I didn’t bother listening anymore after that.
Now, does this seem like an appropriate way to celebrate the emancipation of slaves? Is there any justification for conflating liberation and police brutality, which, despite the attention it gets, is actually statistically rare? Wouldn’t it be far more appropriate to celebrate Juneteenth with positive and influential songs from African American artists—not songs about police brutality? What’s the point of taking something that’s supposed to be a celebration and using it instead for the perpetuation of victim status? Juneteenth should be a day for recognizing the progress made by the descendants of slaves and their contributions to our society and culture, not a day to lament “systemic racism.”
Morello’s “celebration” of Juneteenth had nothing to do with honoring emancipation but instead equated slavery with police brutality, which, as I previously noted, is statistically rare. While we can agree that when unjust police brutality occurs, it should be condemned and punished, Juneteenth should be a day of positivity, don’t you think?