Wanna guess how many black acts topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2013? If you guessed ZERO, give yourself a high five! And maybe a slap in the face!
Chris Molanphy at Slate points out these uncomfortably bleak stats , as well as the fact that white acts topped the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart 44 out of 52 weeks. This year was overflowing with culturally appropriative musicians rocketing to number one (Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, Macklemore), but it's not like there weren't any black acts to choose from—Jay Z, Drake, Kanye and other established popular acts released successful albums in 2013. So why didn't any of their songs reach number one? Molanphy thinks we can chalk up the "drift away from black visibility in our music" to our post-racial approach to, well, everything, but music particularly.
Not to be too grand about it, but my honest opinion is that it’s of a piece with what Ta-Nehisi Coates would call the myth of a post-racial America. Music fans are playing out an unironic version of Stephen Colbert’s joke about not seeing color—we’re cool with the idea that authentic rhythmic music can now come from anyone, and yet somehow, when the data is compiled about what we’re all buying and streaming, the Timberlakes and Matherses and Macklemores keep winding up atop the stack, ahead of the Miguels and J. Coles.
What's troubling is that Molanphy doesn't see a correlation between the disappearance of black acts from the Billboard 100 with racism in any way:
What I find compelling about all of the above is that there’s no willful racism or systematic exclusion happening, neither in the Rock Hall nor on the charts. In both instances, the populace is naturally drifting away from African-Americans after decades of regarding them as the avatars of cutting-edge popular music.
Are you kidding me? It's not a difficult equation: In post-racial America, if you refuse to see color, people of color start to actually disappear.