Despite Using “Ignorant” Racial Slur, Morgan Wallen Still “Has Not Thought” About Racism In Country Music
Country singer Morgan Wallen gave his first interview since he was caught on video using an offensive racial slur in February. On the July 23 broadcast of Good Morning America, Wallen told Michael Strahan that he was “just ignorant about” his use of the word and proceeded to also blame alcohol.
“We say dumb stuff together,” the singer said about he and his friends, who had been “partying” the weekend the incident was filmed. Wallen said he used the word in reference to a drunk friend who is white. “In our minds it was just playful. That sounds ignorant but that’s really where it came from. It was wrong. We were all clearly drunk.”
After the video surfaced, Wallen’s label suspended his contract "indefinitely," his music was pulled from major radio stations and from several streaming services' playlists, and he barred from participating in the upcoming Academy of Country Music Awards. However, sales of his new album Dangerous inherently saw a spike, and spent seven more weeks at No.1 even after the video came out, making it the best-selling album of 2021 so far. As Strahan noted, Wallen’s continued success “tells a lot about country music and the race situation in country music." More specifically, it seems to indicate that the predominantly white fans of Wallen do not see an issue with casual racism.
On GMA, Wallen said that he and his team tried to calculate how much money the album made after the video — “we got to a number around $500,000,” he said — and decided to donate the money to the Black Music Action Coalition and other advocacy groups supporting Black musicians. He also said that he followed through on a promise he made during his apology after the offensive video, which was to meet with representatives from BMAC and Black record executives. BMAC has notably not yet commented.
Wallen also noted that he spent 30 days in rehab in San Diego, "just to try to figure out what I'm acting this way."
"Do I have an alcohol problem, do I have a bigger issue?" he said.
Strahan alluded to the fact that Wallen's timing for this interview is pretty curiously convenient, as it comes right between first- and second-round voting for November's Country Music Association Awards. It's the first major country awards ceremony where Dangerous is eligible in categories like Album, Song, and Single of the Year. “There’s going to be a lot of people who are going to watch this and say, ‘he’s only sitting down because he wants to clean up his image. It’s all a performance.’ So what do you say to that?" Strahan asked. Wallen answered that while he understands that, he "can only come tell [his] truth."
Strahan ended the interview by asking Wallen if he sees this entire incident and many his fans' supportive reactions as indicative of a bigger problem of racism in country music. Wallen, apparently, has had the privilege to not have given it much thought. “I mean, it would seem that way, yeah,” Wallen responded. “You know, I haven’t really sat and thought about that.” It's quite revealing to hear that Wallen has not really thought about country music's racism problem in the past five months, or even far before he was exposed for using a racial slur, when many Black artists and women in country music have been using their voices to call out and rectify the industry's racism (and sexism) for years.
Money talks, but action speaks much louder.
Refinery29 reached out to the Black Music Action Coalition for comment.