Music can be a powerful platform for social change, and it looks like that in Kelela‘s case, she’s not afraid to use her growing popularity to tackle real issues.
Speaking to The Fader, the US singer took the opportunity to make some candid and in-depth remarks on race and politics.
The interview kicked off with a question about how she has reacted to the rise of Presidential candidate Donald Trump. In response, it quickly became clear that Kelela had a lot to get off her chest. “The rise of Donald Trump is sort of a symptom of the fact that America hasn’t ever dealt with whiteness,” she shared. ” Overt racism is something that is very much in the forefront—[but] in that discourse, we’re pointing to people of color, and we don’t actually point to whiteness and the experience of being white in America.”
She wasn’t pulling any punches either. “What Donald Trump represents to me is a sickness that we haven’t dealt with: the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and all the other dumb shit that continues to exist. It hasn’t been addressed in a very public and [on a] large grand scale kind of way. Also, it pulls up into question whiteness on a larger, global level. That population that Trump is resonating with [in the U.S.] is a population that not only exists here—it exists throughout the whole world.”
A systemic lack of understanding surrounding white privilege was something Kelela found deeply concerning.”We have not dealt with racism on a global scale; we have not dealt with white privilege” she continued. “White privilege is a term that needs to be used by a lot of people in this world, and it’s not used by anyone. I think it’s asking the question to white people, ‘Are you with us? Or are you not with us?’”
She went on to discuss tokenism in the creative industries. “I have thought extensively about whiteness in the fashion world, or [the] white establishment really. Black culture is constantly being capitalized off of, there are actually very few black people in that context,” she shared. “I have been standing on the outside, trying to think about how I would fuck that shit up. But also, I have four or five friends of colour [in the fashion industry] who are smashing it.”
Blending experimental electronica with a hybrid of R&B and pop, Kelela’s 2015 Hallucinogen EP earned the widespread praise from critics and musical contemporaries alike. The singer is currently working on a full length LP.