Help Appreciating Black Music Without Appropriating It

rachel krantz
Published in
13 min readMay 17, 2022

Conversations about how to suck less — aka how to be actively anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic (and so much more!) — can sometimes be tricky to navigate. People in marginalized groups are often asked to do a lot of unpaid labor to explain these issues to their friends, schools, and colleagues. So I figured one thing I could do with various consenting guests on my new podcast Help Existing is to delve into the specifics of a wide array of questions. This week’s topic — how to appreciate Black music when you’re not Black, without appropriating it — seemed like a good place to start.

I spoke with Evette Dionne, author of Lifting As We Climb, and a pop culture critic who often writes about Black music. Together, we delved into the central question of whether a person who is not Black can listen to, twerk, or otherwise dance to Black music in any way that’s not somehow problematic.

If your reaction to this topic is like, Ugh, the premise of this even annoys me, that might be a sign of some white fragility or some other form of exceptionalism you’re applying yourself to not think about this. So maybe this is especially for you.

For our full conversation, check out the full Help Existing episode below. What follows is an edited-down and enhanced multi-media version of my interview with Evette Dionne.

Rachel: Why do you think so many people consider Black music to be synonymous with pop music?

Evette: You can’t turn on a Top-40 radio station anywhere in the United States without hearing a hip-hop artist, without hearing R&B artists. To the point that Black music art forms are not considered Black music art forms anymore — they’re just considered universal music was no cultural heritage or background to be considered.

Whereas Black literature has often been pigeonholed in a way that most people do not access it. I say all the time that what I consider the Black women’s canon of literature, which includes books like Waiting To

rachel krantz

Award-winning journalist & author of reported memoir OPEN, Host of HELP EXISTING podcast, Twitter & IG @rachelkrantz.