In the nearly two years I’ve been writing The Diversity of Classic Rock, I can confidently say that classic rock is more diverse than the US Presidents. As far as religion, definitely. The US has never had a Jewish president, Muslim president, Atheist president, Buddhist president, or Hindu president. I can think of quite a few rockers who are Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, or Hindu. As far as ethnicity, definitely. All but one president were white. Let’s take a look at Ultimate Classic Rock’s Top 100 Classic Rock Artists. How many are non-white or mixed? Let’s count!
- Phil Lynott – Thin Lizzy – half black, half Irish
- Tommy Bolin – James Gang – half Syrian, half Swedish
- Tetsu Yamauchi – Faces – Japanese
- Ronnie Wood – Faces/Rolling Stones – Romani
- Tico Torres – Bon Jovi – Cuban-American
- Sammy Hagar – Montrose/Van Halen – Lebanese-American
- Randy Castillo – Motley Crue – part Hispanic and Native American
- Tiran Porter, Cornelius Bumpus, and Willie Weeks – Doobie Brothers – Black
- Robert Plant – Led Zeppelin – half Romani
- Alice Cooper – part Native American
- Carlos Santana – Mexican
- Randy Jackson – Journey – Black
- Arnel Pineda – Journey – Filipino
- Royce Jones – Steely Dan – Black
- Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson, Lamar Williams, Oteil Burbridge, – Allman Brothers Band – Black
- Marc Quiñones – Allman Brothers Band – Puerto Rican
- Jerry Garcia – Grateful Dead – Hispanic (technically of Spanish European descent.)
- Rickey Medlocke – Lynyrd Skynyrd – Native American
- Slash – Guns N’ Roses – half Black, half British
- Freddie Mercury – Queen – Parsi Indian
- Robbie Robertson – The Band – First Nations (Native Canadian)
- Jimmy Crespo – Aerosmith – Puerto Rican
- Kirk Hammett – Metallica – Filipino
- Robert Trujillo – Metallica – Mexican and Native American
- Eddie and Alex Van Halen – Van Halen – part Indonesian
- Jimi Hendrix – Black and Native American
Granted, classic rock is a much bigger pool than say the US Presidents, of which there have been 44 from 1789 to the current year, 2017. The top 100 classic rock artists list isn’t an exhaustive list of all classic rock musicians and is just a little taste of the great music of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Even thinking beyond ethnicity, classic rockers are diverse in other ways like sexual orientation, gender identity, and class.
I made these infographics below to show the lack of diversity in US Presidents. The lack of diversity is not something that should come as a surprise, given America’s long history of racism. Slavery, manifest destiny, The Trail of Tears, segregation, Jim Crow, the KKK, voter suppression, immigration quotas, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, Native American boarding schools, internment camps, economic inequality, stereotypes, and hate crimes are just some of the forms of racism perpetrated in the country.
Note: On the infographic that says 10 Notable Candidates for President, this is just about them being the first (insert ethnicity/group here) to run for president – just facts. Their political views are not going to be discussed. This infographic isn’t claiming that these candidates lost because of their gender or ethnicity.
America wasn’t always as diverse as it is today. According to historical records, the US was 80% white in 1790, hovering anywhere from 81-87.5% white in the 19th century, and it wasn’t until the 2000 Census that the percentage of white Americans fell below 80%.
Why the lack of diversity in presidents? This is why I took a look at voting rights. For centuries, non-white Americans were not allowed to vote. The 15th Amendment, on paper, was supposed to prohibit racial discrimination in voting, but in practice, it was a different story.
Black Americans were unequivocally granted full citizenship in 1868 with the 14th Amendment. Native Americans born in the US were not granted citizenship until 1924 with the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. Asian Americans struggled for decades because the laws failed to account for people who were neither black nor white. Cases such as Ozawa v United States and United States v Bhagat Singh Thind are examples of Asian-Americans who immigrated to the US and could not be naturalised and the courts ruled that Japanese people and Indian (Asian) people could not be naturalised. It wasn’t until 1952 that the laws prohibiting Asian-American immigrants from becoming citizens and alien land laws (a form of discrimination that discouraged Asian immigrants from settling permanently by limiting their ability to own property) were ruled unconstitutional. Mexican-Americans were at one point considered white because many were of Spanish descent. However, since at least the early 20th century, Mexican-Americans were discriminated against with unequal pay, housing discrimination, and employment discrimination.
What if you were mixed? There was the one-drop rule, which said if you were, for example, 1/8 or 1/4 black, you were classified as black even if your skin was pale. For example, my grandfather was half black, this makes me 1/8 black. I would be classified as black during Jim Crow even though I have pale skin and wavy hair. However, many white-passing people lied if they could in order to survive. A lot of how you were treated depended on appearance. There is no one look to being mixed.
In many states, anti-miscegenation laws were passed, meaning that interracial marriages were criminalised. Even in states where there were no laws against interracial marriages, you’d be considered an outcast for dating someone of a different ethnicity. Landmark civil rights decision in Loving v Virginia (1967) struck down laws against interracial marriages.
In the case of Southern and Eastern Europeans, the Immigration Act of 1924 limited the number of admitted immigrants from those regions. Here is an article that talks about Italian-Americans and the discrimination they faced. Polish-Americans and immigrants from Poland faced a lot of discrimination as well, with jokes and stereotypes, employment discrimination, and politicians making racist comments about them. There was also a lot of anti-Catholicism in the country. Here’s an article about how various European immigrant groups in America went from being considered as “other” to being considered “white.”
The election of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 was proof that the country has the potential to move towards diversity in elected officials. There are a few things to question: Why are there so few women in the House of Representatives and the Senate? Do women have little interest in being politicians? Are schools discouraging women to be in politics? Do voters have sexist attitudes?
Why are there few Black, Hispanic, and Asian Representatives and Senators? How many are running for the House or Senate? If they were unsuccessful in running for office, why? Are racist attitudes to blame? Or is it that voters just liked another candidate better?
We also cannot forget local politicians, who affect peoples lives more directly. People care the least about these elections and care more about the President, who at the end of the day doesn’t do as much directly. There’s a lot more to look at with the diversity of the government. The President is just one person.
Don’t just vote for someone for their gender, religion, or ethnicity. Vote for them because you like their ideas, because you think they would be the best choice. Politicians: give people a reason to vote for you. Don’t throw the average people under the bus, it can hurt as we saw with Hillary Clinton’s campaign.