- Editorial:Reckoning with Musicology's Past and Present
Black Lives Matter! The clarion call of the most recent season of discontent. A simple certainty, yet a truth long silenced. A chorus of many calling out the racism that has long been systemic. A moment of reckoning with past and present, sounded unambiguously and insistently. A moment of recognition to which musicology must respond.
So much has happened since the editorial that appeared in the most recent issue of Acta Musicologica (92, no. 1) that we feel compelled once again to address critical issues in musicology with the present editorial, rather than wait until next spring. Even as the last issue was about to appear, a series of events took place that would make the need for reckoning with systemic racism immediate. The murder of the unarmed African American George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, unleashed anger and protest across the United States and the world. Many histories intersected at that moment, amassing the memories of a racism that refused to abate, that itself repelled all reasoned attempts at restraining it.
At that moment, it also became clear that Floyd's murder was not an isolated event, but rather it was part of a longer and more expansive history of violence against Black lives. That music, so capable of sounding response to racism, also mobilized the voices of anti-racism, was hardly surprising. The list of the lives lost to the unjust and unjustified exercise of power was vast, and in the course of many histories the names of Indigenous and colonized populations, racial and religious minorities, people of color throughout the world, had filled it to overflowing. "Say her name" chanted those gathered in public protest to the murder of Breonna Taylor by police in her own apartment in the night of March 13, 2020. More names would quickly be said, swelling in the streets and spilling over to civil society worldwide, transforming the moment of reckoning in the history of the present—our present.
Among the many reasons that this moment exacts its claim for reckoning, the recognition that racism is and has been systemic is especially important. Racism that is systemic not only exists in past and present, it connects them. We must search everywhere for such racism, knowing we shall find it everywhere. In response to the ubiquity of the systemic call for recognizing that Black Lives Matter underwent a sea change during the summer of 2020, emerging as a movement that encompassed the history of the present, insisting that racism is systemic in the world we coinhabit with others. As a movement Black Lives Matter insists that we reckon with the systemic, first identifying it, then asking that we act decisively to dismantle it. [End Page 117]
By addressing such issues in this editorial it is not our aim to point fingers or claim moral high ground, but rather to respond to the call of the BLM movement for recognition of the practices that have become systemic and therefore require a concerted reckoning. We believe that such reckoning is not only possible for an academic society that represents a global musicology as fully as the IMS, but it also enables musicologists more critically to act in ways that bring real change to those systemic practices that close rather than expand the paths to musical knowledge. We begin here by identifying several of the areas whose systemic presence could most critically respond to the critical reckoning in BLM's challenge.
Racism/Anti-Racism: In the summer of 2020 it had also been fifty years since the fourteen-year-old Emmett Till from Chicago was lynched by white killers while visiting relatives in Mississippi. That half-century in American history had been preceded by three and half earlier centuries since the first African slaves were brought to the American colonies. One history of racism piled upon countless others, deepening their systemic presence and demanding a new reckoning with American history as a whole, engendering responses such as the "1619 Project," which mapped out strategies for teaching anti-racism in American schools and public institutions.
Colonialism: Even as scholars...