Cam Talks Fighting Racism in Country Music: ‘You Have to Be Okay Being Uncomfortable’
Rissi Palmer's Sunday evening (Feb. 14) installment of her Apple Music radio show Color Me Country turned the show from its usual one-on-one interview format into a four-way conversation about racism in country music. Together with fellow artists Cam and Maren Morris, as well as journalist Andrea Williams, Palmer dissected the role race plays in the industry and how everyone, from fans to the artists themselves, has a duty to work toward equality within the genre.
"We can't play this game anymore of pretending everything's fine," Cam offered early on in the conversation. "Even if you're trying, you have to be okay being uncomfortable ... We are not gonna get anywhere pretending everything's fine."
The singer later added, "People don't like being told that there's a problem. People don't like being told that they have to work to fix it. People don't like being told that they themselves are the perpetrators of the problem ... [but] all of us in our own way are adding to this mix."
Palmer -- who, as a Black woman and an independent artist, made history with her charting song "Country Girl" in 2007 -- points out that she's heard many people say they don't feel as though fighting racism within country music is their responsibility. In reply, Cam articulately explains why that's an incorrect assumption, no matter who you are.
"You have to see history and you have to understand white supremacy and the power structure that is set up to put us into a hierarchical system. Just because you're above somebody else doesn't mean you're outside of this ladder that was created," she notes. "Country music has been continually defined as 'white men's music,' and it has been done in that image so well that now we have to spend time explaining ... why you are even in country music ...
"The story isn't just 'Black women don't get a shot and everybody else does,'" Cam adds. "There's varying degrees of 'We're not gonna let you in.'"
Throughout their conversation, Palmer, Cam, Morris and Williams discuss how Cam and Morris have used their positions as white women in country music to advocate for artists of color, and how those efforts have sometimes been rebuffed. Williams, a vocal analyst of race in country music both in her writing and on Twitter, also explains how watching her husband, who is Black, try to work in the music industry in Nashville, prompted her to speak up.
"We're having this conversation [five years after 'Tomatogate'] because 'Tomatogate' was never about Black women -- it was always about white women," Williams reflects, mentioning comments by a radio consultant in 2015 comparing country music's women to the tomatoes in a salad -- that is, something to be added into playlists sparingly. The consultant's analogy prompted conversations about the gender disparity within the genre, and made the lack of women on country radio a hot topic of discussion and pushes for change.
"There's a whole lot of people that are sitting under white women [in the hierarchy Cam previously discussed]," Williams continues, "and if your idea of fixing this industry, of raising people up, is starting there and not reaching from the bottom, you're gonna get it wrong, and we won't fix it, and you're still gonna be hurt in the long run ..."
The video highlights of the four women's conversation conclude with them each reflecting on what work they can do within their spheres of influence. Palmer, Cam, Morris and Williams' full conversation is available to stream on demand at Apple.com.