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Jazz and Race
"Bama" Warwick, or the noted bandleader of the 1930s, Willie Bryant, or Ernie Royal, who is lighter and less a Negro than many musicians of Latin origin whom these critics consider white? And what was their attitude when Barney Bigard applied for (and was refused) a transfer from the Negro to the white local in Los Angeles before the two unions were amalgamated? Is Miles Davis, a very dark-skinned Negro, more authentically a jazzman than was John Kirby, who may have had three white grandparents?
The critics are in an untenable position, just as are the white supremacists who enact different laws in each state determining what percentage of "Negro blood" (there is, of course no such thing) determines a citizen's racial status. They would do well to examine a colloquy between John "Dizzy * Gillespie and Mike Wallace on the latter's television program in April, 1957. Wallace asked: *T would like your opinion of the Negro's success in jazz. Is it because, as some people say, the Negro has more music, more rhythm, more beat in him than the white people?"
Gillespie's reply was "I don't think God would give any one race of people something that the other one couldn't get if they had the facilities . . . You probably could take a white kid and subject him to the same things that one of us was subjected to and he'd probably stomp his foot just like we do. It's not a matter of race, hut environment"
Counterposcd against the attitude of the "Crow Jim" critics is the position taken by Stan Kenton, who on reading the results of the 1956 Down Beat critics' poll sent the magazine a telegram expressing his "complete and utter disgust" with the results and sarcastically deducing that there was now a "new minority group, white jazz musicians." Kenton's telegram brought a flood of protesting mail; his chauviaistically pro-white attitude seemed as indefensible as that of the Crow Jim critics. There is no proof that Kenton was motivated by actively anti-Negro feelings, however; his band had included Negro musicians occasionally. Nothing was proved on either side except that the color question remains inflammatory even when it should be an issue to nobody involved.
The race situation in jazz today is slowly receding from the