This situation is sad for many reasons. Among them, it’s a reminder that many people view others in very black and white, static terms, where reflection, discussion, and growth are impossible once any connection to “shady” ideas or people have been made. They see Death in June’s Douglas P as someone who, despite owning his mistakes as the actions of a young person trying to find his way in the 80s, will be forever tainted. Worse still, they see someone like Caïna’s Andy Curtis-Brignell as equally untouchable for agreeing that Douglas could grow up and should not be punished for mistakes he is trying to move past. These are the same people who reject reformed skinheads from participating or object to bands containing minorities have been photographed wearing shirts that they find questionable.
Call me crazy, but I think that the most powerful advocates for social change in metal are people with connections to things that make us uncomfortable. I have more than a few friends who had terrible opinions when they were young but grew out of them. The keys to this transformation: the opportunity to relate to people with different backgrounds and shared interests. The time and place to realize that their attitudes just don’t make sense.
Nothing erodes racist attitudes like finding common ground and building connections with different types of people. People who go through these transformations understand how others end up where they were. Their inclusion in the underground makes the statement that it’s possible to change. Their presence is crucial, even if what they contribute in the fight against extremism happens slowly and without any deliberate actions. The wholesale rejection of individuals who at some point engaged in actions we find questionable makes it harder, sometimes impossible, to reach those who need common ground the most. This goes for folks who grow out of terrible perspectives and those of us who are willing to accept change in others.
But back to Caïna and this specific event, Andy is exactly the type of person we need more of in the underground. Very few black metal artists are willing to make strong statements against discrimination – he is one of those few. He probably also has a surprising number of listeners who disagree with his views, which means that his music can often present opportunities for communication between people who would otherwise have trouble finding common ground. To prohibit his music and his fans from participating in an event because he chooses to believe that people can change, that art can unite, is a sad, sad decision with profound implications.
I think about this whole thing and wonder if there is someone somewhere who actually does have right-leaning tendencies and will take this as one more reason to feel persecuted and isolated. They’ll say that this is more “SJW PC nonsense,” they’ll be more willing to side with actual skinheads when they are kicked off of a show for actually being shitheads, they’ll make shittier friends, and they’ll fall deeper into this pit. I’m not saying that this one incident is the start of a slippery slope – I don’t see how it could be – but it contributes to a worldview that is best fought through inclusion and dialogue, not exclusion and shame.