For every human being on this planet, multiple crossroads will appear on the path of their short lives. Today, we are presented with a chance to change something that has festered for 400 years in this country: racism, both individual and institutional, against our African-American brothers and sisters. I hope we can be honest with ourselves; take a step back and choose between right and wrong and reject political hyperbole. I have no interest in sending a neutral message proclaiming "riots aren't the answer" or "hurting innocent people doesn't help the cause." We all recognize that, and if that's the only message you are focused on during this dire time then I ask you to dig deeper.
There is a massive rift in this country and our fellow Americans are hurting and have been hurting for a very long time. Peaceful protests have resulted in nil. Screams have fallen on deaf ears. Kaepernick takes a knee and half the country goes into a frenzy about it being "the wrong type of protest." What exactly is the "right" type of protest? One where YOU don't have to see or hear about ideas you don't like? That take seems to defeat the purpose, in my view. Many claimed Kaepernick's stance was "disrespectful to the ones who have served," but I believe this is the sort of freedom that many have laid down their lives to protect. I respect and appreciate our veterans while also fully standing behind Kaepernick's and others' right to freedom of expression. If we had heeded the protests leading up to this with an open mind and open heart, we might be in a different boat than we find ourselves in now. Had we collectively demanded reform before so many hit the breaking point, then we might be sharing ideas rather than battling over differences. The reality is, this is not a "black problem" — it is an American problem. Until we address it as such, the tides will remain the same.
My best friend over the past decade is African American. My brother-in-law and nephew are African American. Our crew members, peers, associates ... these are humans I love dearly that simply live a different experience than me because of their outward appearance. The off-handed comments I've heard behind their backs should make any decent person sick to their stomach. The dirty looks, the mumblings, the drive-by taunts. This is just part of their daily lives, and somehow, they take it on the chin and carry on. It's normal to them. To my white friends, can you imagine living like that for a moment? It's horrifying and unfair. Hell, I took my brother-in-law to a Slipknot show a couple years back (his fav band) and the tension of a black man being in that crowd was palpable. Which brings me to my point.
If you are white and have been sitting on the sidelines of this situation, we need you to stand up. Taking a stand for our fellow Americans does not mean you condone the riots. It simply means you are listening and want to help. If you posted in opposition of the riots yet were previously silent on the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among too many others, please ask yourself why. It's time to show our fellow Americans that we hear them and feel their pain. This can't be about your political alliances. This can't be about what your friends or family are going to think of you. This is not a fight our fellow Americans should be going through alone. If someone says, "Black Lives Matter," and your response is "All Lives Matter" then maybe take a look at the core of that reaction. Every life is valuable — that is a given — but right now the lives of the oppressed require our undivided attention. Yes, the police have an incredibly daunting job, and many uphold the integrity of their position, but if that is your point of contention, I say AGAIN: the lives of the oppressed require our undivided attention right now.
I understand that the Avenged Sevenfold fanbase is made up of very few black Americans. That is why I feel more compelled than ever to write this to you. We can be the ones — the rock and metal community — to reach out and show the compassion that I know is in us all to help raise up our fellow humans. I, for one, enjoy black American culture. The music, art, films, clothing, sports, food. All of it has made my life better. I have no doubt we are a better country because of the black American influence. Hell, Chuck Berry was the Father of Rock & Roll! Standing against inequality and systemic racism is the very least we can all do.
I am aware that in the past Avenged has antagonized with some of our lyrics and imagery. We have also used confederate flags in our artwork while paying tribute to artists we grew up listening to or simply trying to start controversy. I'm sure we will be called out, and rightfully so, by people reading this. No excuses. But everyone grows up at some point, and I feel grateful that we have an audience that has allowed us to evolve with them. I can only hope that the rock and metal community, and the white community at large, can move forward with an open mind and come together to help out our fellow Americans in this desperate time.
Black Lives Matter
Reclaim the Block
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
American Civil Liberties Union
National Bail Fund Network or local bail funds across the U.S.
National Police Accountability Project
Official George Floyd Memorial Fund
I Run With Maud
Find a comprehensive list of victims' donation pages on the Black Lives Matter website here.