In 1978, hardcore punk rock band Black Flag made their recorded debut with the EP Nervous Breakdown. Over the next eight years, until their breakup in 1986, they recorded six full-length albums and multiple singles and EPs, founded the record label SST, and established a touring circuit for underground rock bands that is still being followed today. Since their debut, the music of Black Flag and many of their hardcore punk peers has been criticized for its racial politics. This essay argues that while Black Flag did parody the rhetoric of racism in at least one song, this provocation masked a deeper musical dialogue on the topic of race that was occurring between Black Flag’s members, who were of black, white, Latino, and Jewish descent. Following Stuart Hall’s injunction to listen for the “marks of difference” in popular music and popular cultural production more generally, I explore, in this essay, Black Flag’s musical dialogue within the context of the imperial and colonial legacies of the Southland that were being revived, during their career, by suburban revolutionaries such as Howard Jarvis and the national neo-conservative movement more generally. Ultimately, I suggest that Black Flag’s musical dialogue was a tactical engagement with this legacy that challenged the historical process of racialization upon which that legacy depended.
"White Skin, Black Flag: Hardcore Punk, Racialization, and the Politics of Sound in Southern California,"
Criticism: Vol. 58:
1, Article 4.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol58/iss1/4