Fan Rachel Berry Goes Viral With Eye-Opening Post About Being a Black Woman Who Loves Country Music
On Tuesday (June 2), record labels, PR companies, artists and others in the music industry participated in a blackout meant to raise awareness of, and spur action around, racism and inequality. Many in the Nashville community, including a number of artists, used the day to pause from their usual social media fare and either go silent or amplify the voices of people of color, messages of solidarity and anti-racism resources.
Within country music, one of those amplified voices belonged to a fan named Rachel Berry. On Tuesday, the 28-year-old New Jersey resident, emboldened by posts from some of her favorite artists (including Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild and Lindsay Ell), shared a lengthy post on her Instagram page:
"Not sure who will actually read this," Berry began, "but figured I'd give my viewpoint on what's going on in the world and hopefully open up some eyes on what goes on in the mind of a country music fan who's in the minority."
What follows is a reflection that details Berry's struggles, concerns and experiences as a black country music fan: Worrying that someone will use a racial slur if she blocks their view, Googling the location of a show to see if there have been racist acts committed in the area, meticulously planning out road trips so she won't have to stop somewhere she would feel unsafe and walking through crowds, and seeing Confederate flags:
"I'm a female, so I've got that to worry about, and then also my race, so it's like a double whammy," Berry — who estimates that she has been to around 200 concerts, including a whopping 70 Little Big Town shows — tells us. Berry's grandmother, who grew up in Georgia, introduced her to "Willie Nelson and Loretta Lynn, all those country artists," but it was a Martina McBride show Berry attended as a teenager that really solidified her love of the genre.
"I never regret going to a show. I never regret that experience, because some of my best memories have been at shows," she adds, "but there are times where I have to kind of question: Is this really worth it? — the feeling that I have, the stress that I have because of it."
Chatting with Taste of Country sister site the Boot, Berry shares that while she's never been the victim a physical racially motivated attack at a concert, she has experienced some microaggressions: For example, from the man who sat next to her at a concert and quizzed her about whose song was playing during a set change.
"I was on the phone — I was texting a friend — and I had my foot tapping the floor, and he looked at me, and he was like, 'Do you even know who this is?' And I'm like, 'Yeah, it's Chris Stapleton,'" Berry recounts. "And he's like, 'Okay, but what song?'"
It was "Parachute," and Berry knew it. She replied to the man with the song title, "and he's like, 'Oh. I didn't think you would know that.'"
"I knew what he was trying to refer to, but I don't like confrontation, so I just let it go," Berry says. "I've gotten lots of those comments."
"I never regret going to a show. I never regret that experience, because some of my best memories have been at shows, but there are times where I have to kind of question: Is this really worth it?"
Berry has learned to read crowds and note who's nearby. She remembers, at a Little Big Town show in Pittsburgh, Pa., waiting to stand up during an opening act's set until she saw how the people around her and her three white friends reacted to her friends standing.
"It doesn't really keep me away, it just makes me overly cautious, and I just have to be extra careful about who's to my left, who's to my right — what is he doing, what is she doing?" she explains. "That's something that I've learned to do."
Continues Berry later in the conversation, discussing a road trip she took, alone, from New Jersey to Texas, where she met up with friends for a series of Little Big Town shows, "Anything can happen anywhere, you know — things happen here in New Jersey — but I just hear stories of it being more prevalent down South. So it's something I have to worry about: Being at a traffic light and having to worry about who's pulling up next to me, if they're going to look at me and be like, 'She doesn't belong here. I'm going to hurt her' — just, again, things that I have to worry about that maybe other people don't."
Berry's Tuesday Instagram post garnered replies from (and was shared by) LBT member Fairchild, Maren Morris, Tenille Townes, Morgane Stapleton and many other artists, along with a number of country music industry members. Her friends, too, have reached out — they didn't know what she's experienced, as a Black woman.
"I've kept that quiet," Berry admits, adding that her friends were "surprised and shocked that I felt that way, but they told me that they're gonna rally around me. If we're ever at a show and something happened ... they'd make sure I was okay."
"We all love country music, just, I look different than you."
The response has been "overwhelming, not gonna lie," says Berry, who was "hesitant to even post it, because I didn't want people to apologize ... or even [get] backlash." But after replying to some negative comments on a post Fairchild made, she decided that she, too, had a platform she could use.
"I feel like, responding to those [negative comments], I felt better, but it also kind of ignited the fire in me that I needed to speak up about this," Berry says. "There are people who don't even understand or don't know, and if I can maybe help them understand, I would feel better."
The negative comments from fans toward the artists who are speaking out against racism hurt, Berry says, but she appreciates that artists and standing up for fans like her.
"I see it, and it means a lot." She adds that she's, "excited to go back to shows and maybe see if I can not focus on that so much."
The next step, Berry says, is inclusion: Specifically, involving more artists of color in the genre. She's been following Mickey Guyton's comments and music closely: "I think that we need more stories like hers to be out, and her music to be out, and for people to listen and just understand more." Guyton released a new song called "Black Like Me" this week.
"My skin color is darker than someone else, but we're all the same, and I think that people need to remember that: That we're all the same," she continues. "We all love country music, just, I look different than you. But that shouldn't affect anything."
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