Watch David Bowie Teach a Masterclass in Allyship 101
Amidst the important conversations we’ve been having about racism and allyship in this country, a 1983 interview between David Bowie and VJ Mark Goodman, where the two discuss the lack of Black artists on MTV, has recently resurfaced. Watch David Bowie in this clip below:
The interview is excellent. Bowie begins by telling Goodman he’d like to ask him about something:
“I’m just floored by the fact that there’s … so few Black artists featured. Why is that?”
Goodman’s response is predictably weak, explaining that they’d like to move in that direction, though never shedding light on why they have not done so already. Goodman goes on to struggle for most of the conversation, having no real legitimate explanation for the lack of Black artists on MTV.
Bowie, on the other hand, is steadfast. While you’ll watch David Bowie be endlessly polite, he remains firm, bringing up the fact that when Black artists are played on MTV, they’re predominantly featured during hours when most of America is asleep.
Goodman’s comments and excuses are, in a word, gross. He tries to blame the Midwest, stating that viewers there will be “scared to death of Prince” (never mind that Prince was born in Minnesota), and that MTV is a “rock ‘n’ roll station,” which seems to insinuate that Black folk didn’t literally invent the genre.
“That’s very interesting,” Bowie says, smiling daggers into Goodman.
Goodman then does an interesting (read: cringe-worthy) version of “I have Black friends” by rattling off his appreciation for The Isley Brothers and The Spinners, but then asking, “What does it mean to a 17-year-old?”
Bowie responds: “I’ll tell you what maybe the Isley Brothers or Marvin Gaye means to a Black 17-year-old. And surely he’s part of America as well. Do you not find that it’s a frightening predicament to be in? Is it not possible it should be a conviction of the station to be fair? It does seem to be rampant through American media. Should it not be a challenge to make the media far more integrated?”
It’s an incredible example of allyship and awareness. Bowie never agrees with Goodman, either, simply ending this discussion about Black artists on MTV with “I understand your point of view,” and laughing.