What Gave Public Enemy the Right to Call Elvis and John Wayne Racists?

706 WordsMar 27, 20133 Pages
Tyler Brown #211711710 In the 1960’s Elvis Presley and John Wayne stood together as the coat of arms for the American Dream and embodied societies perceptions of white supremacy. Their seemingly endless fan base and mass appeal, coupled with a ‘whitewashed legacy’, distinguished them as icons amongst a vast range of underrated and extremely talented colored artists. Chuck D and Flava Flav articulate their disdain by labeling them as racists and insulting them in Public Enemy’s most notorious song Fight The Power. What right did they have in doing this? John Wayne was an extremely popular Movie star at the time, during an interview with Playboy in 1971; he stated, “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are…show more content…
This focused the attention of the public, less towards the ‘whitewashed’ media and art forms, and more towards the black community. This immense stardom and fame was the quintessential element that justified black artists like Chuck D and Flava Flav expressing their dislike for him. Fight The Power was written to depose societies prejudiced attitudes in segregated America. The reason black performers then and now feel bitter towards him was that he was getting all the attention while they were struggling to get noticed. To add insult to injury, Elvis was even dubbed the “King of Rock”. It is no wonder that after a long battle by the black community to fight for their right to create art and distinguish themselves, uproar would ensue when a charming white man incorporated their songs, their style and their flare into his act. This left black artists infuriated; Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Little Richard who pioneered the sounds and styles, received no recognition for their contribution and brilliance. To these pioneers, Public Enemy and black artists in America, it was frustrating to see time and time again a white artist take a style from any group of colour and gain acceptance and popularity. Elvis used the tunes, rhythms and performance style from black artists and far overreached the cultural acknowledgement of the originals. Chuck D stated in an interview that his attacks were against Elvis’s “whitewashed legacy”. He claimed

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