A day after news broke about Joe Rogan’s use of the N-word, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has made the situation 100 times worse. Ek offers the typical apology that white racists give when outed: “There are no words I can say to adequately convey how deeply sorry I am. … Not only are some of Joe Rogan’s comments incredibly hurtful – I want to make clear that they do not represent the values of this company. … He also issued his own apology over the weekend. … I do not believe silencing Joe is the answer.”
The pain of Ek’s explanation and response to the racism hurled forth by Rogan is no different than the use of the N-word. It reeks of insensibility as well as an inability or unwillingness to confront the malevolent and evil reality of racism. Fully attached to Ek’s well-thought-out response is the caution and care he has for the billion-dollar company for which he is responsible. Of course Ek will not silence Rogan. How can he silence someone to whom he awarded a $100 million contract? How can he silence someone to whom so many of Spotify’s sponsors possesses allegiance and compliance? While I am no lawyer, it is pretty certain that a $100 million contract possesses all the necessary legalese to ensure that it cannot be so easily dismissed.
Perhaps recognizing the severity of the problem, Ek also promised that Spotify will invest “$100 million for the licensing, development and marketing of music … and audio content from historically marginalized groups.” He wants to pay off marginalized groups who have been offended by Rogan. This is the thing, though: One cannot pay off a history of offenses. One cannot pay off more than half a millennium of racism and discrimination aimed at Black people. One cannot pay off a racist for using racist language and then apologizing for fear that he will lose his influence and wealth. It is offensive, you see, to even suggest that in light of this horrible, public expose of Joe Rogan, that the company who has made him a multimillionaire 100 times over would suggest, we will match what we gave Joe to “marginalized groups.”
Joe Rogan was a racist before Spotify increased his wealth to heights unknown. Wealth alone is never a cure that frees one from being racist. Spotify knew Joe Rogan’s history as surely as the sun rose over Lake Michigan this morning. They were willing to take a risk because the showman Rogan is the hottest commodity on Spotify. When news broke regarding Rogan’s completely unacceptable vitriol and deep-seated racism, Spotify executives never once (at least I believe this to be the case) gathered to say “how can we fire Joe Rogan?” Rather, they gathered and asked, “How can we save Joe Rogan?” The one who used the N-word so many times they had to erase 70 of his shows, the one who compared Black people to apes after watching “Planet of the Apes,” the one who claimed Black brains are different than white brains. These comments are not only offensive, they are literally incomprehensible in an intelligent, educated and civilized society.
Recently, I was part of an academic and faith panel where one person shared with others that he had sent a request to be invited for an interview on the Joe Rogan show. I was flabbergasted, annoyed and disgusted when he sounded proud that Rogan indeed invited him out for an interview. I don’t remember one other person on that panel, as diverse as it was, who responded, “How great. Wonderful. Wow.” Everyone appeared as annoyed as me. This was two months ago. Why were we annoyed? Because before all the news about Joe Rogan’s racism broke a couple of days ago, we knew all about Joe Rogan. To keep Joe Rogan and to allow his brand of ranting, misinformation about COVID-19, racism and cruel words that demean my humanity, why, that is just inhumane.
Daniel Ek, shame on you for choosing one white racist man over half the population of the Earth. That is a downright racist thing to do.
Pastor, Second Baptist Church of Evanston
President, Evanston/North Shore NAACP
Well said, Pastor Nabors….
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