While taking part in this past weekend's Headbangers Con, drummer Morgan Rose of SEVENDUST — whose frontman, Lajon Witherspoon, is African American — was asked by Rocking With Jam Man if he had his bandmates have ever experienced racism during their nearly three-decade-long career. He responded (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Yes, we have. A few times. Not as much as you would think. That never entered our ignorant, or naïve, minds when we started. We never looked at anything [in terms of race] — it had nothing to do with that. So when it happened, it was, like, 'Oh, shit!'
"I think the first time I really saw it and it freaked me out was [the] 'Tattoo The Earth' [tour in 2000]," he continued. "And we were playing in Phoenix, Arizona, which was a big city for us. And we were playing, and I'm in the middle of the show, and I hear 'clink, clink.' And I'm, like, 'What is that?', the sound of this dinging off of my stands. And I looked. My drum tech looks at me, and he lifts up this fucking rock. It was, like, big — that if it were to hit me in the face or in the head, it would do real damage. And they're all over the place. And I look out, and there's these guys with their shirts [pulled over the faces], and they're going like this [makes 'Sieg Heil' arm salute] in the back of the crowd. So we got off the stage and hauled ass immediately — like, literally, show's over, and we ran to get to 'em. And the police had already gotten there. But it happens. A few times that's happened to us."
Witherspoon discussed the issue of racism in metal during an appearance on Full Metal Jackie's nationally syndicated radio show last September. At the time, he said: "I think today we definitely can see that there's been a lack of equality in this world that's being put in the forefront. Luckily, in the industry that I'm in, in the metal community, I feel like that's definitely something that's not tolerated, I would like to say, as far as I've seen. I feel like this community is incredibly welcoming, and I've been very blessed to be in it. I also feel like there's definitely a lot of people that are hiding behind masks that are racist out there. But if there's anything that I can do, I will never not be a leader of bringing peace, love and equality to this industry and to what I do. I can say love sees no color, but I do — I believe that people do see color, obviously. But I still want to bring everyone together and [have] it not be a problem.
"I feel like in our community, there's not only black — there's white, there's Asian, there's everybody — and that's what this world should [be like]," he added. "We should definitely get to that page and to the point, again, to where we don't have that problem. I pray that we get there. But me, musically, I feel like, thank you for letting us have our voices and to be able to speak and to bring people together. And I think that's something that we're able to do as SEVENDUST, as a band. People see us. and they see a bunch of different guys from different backgrounds and different ethnicities. It's something that we've done for 20-something years now — we haven't stopped — and I hope that's something that people will understand and see and learn from."
Earlier last year, SEVENDUST guitarist Clint Lowery addressed his band's past use of the Confederate flag, explaining that it was done "as a spoof."
The Confederate battle emblem has long been decried as a symbol of racism and violence, and it has become a frequent target for protesters following the May 2020 death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of police.
When SEVENDUST played Woodstock '99, SEVENDUST's Vince Hornsby played a bass with a Confederate flag on the body.
Asked in an interview with the "Talk Toomey" podcast how he feels about SEVENDUST's past association with such an offensive and divisive symbol, Clint said: "Our thing was funny, because we were doing it as a spoof. We were trying to kinda use it in this cynical way, so it's gonna be completely misunderstood now. We were using it in a smart-ass way… It's confusing.
"We're all being educated — everyone's being educated," he added. "Things we thought were cool before aren't cool anymore, and I understand why they're not cool anymore. And it's, like, okay, yeah, I didn't know enough about what the situation was to even have a… It was just ignorance. You do things as a younger person — you're, like, 'Oh yeah, this is cool. This is against the grain' — and you realize the sensitivities; you learn about it. And that's what I think that I'm trying to do — is, like, okay, that wasn't cool. That wasn't a decision that was something I'm very proud of. You live and learn, you admit when you do wrong and you change. And that's what everyone needs to do. I can't control anybody. I just do what I do, try to be as open and loving as I can. And that's it."
Witherspoon voiced his views on the Confederate flag during a 2018 interviw with Billboard. He said: "Listen, man, I used to wear a belt buckle that had a Confederate flag on it. Just 'cause I flew that flag doesn't mean I was a racist. We're just country boys, and that's a country-boy thing. That's what the cool thing about it was — that Vinnie would have a Confederate flag with me [a black man] standing beside him. At that point, love sees no color at all. But I can't say, 'This guy flies the flag the same as this guy,' because everyone has different values."
In a 2013 interview with Bloody Disgusting, Witherspoon was asked if he or SEVENDUST are viewed or treated differently because he is black. "No, not at all," he responded. "You know, if it is, I don't see it. I have no room for ignorance in my life. I think that we've built a relationship and… not a fanbase, but a family base that really doesn't tolerate that. I'm the kind of guy that says, 'If you don't like it, don't come,' you know what I mean? We're not forcing anything on anyone. I know that that's still there, but I don't have time for that ignorance. We just keep on moving because it can never be the way it was before."
Five years ago, Witherspoon told The Salt Lake Tribune he sometimes thinks about whether his race might have slowed the band's rise. "I've always wondered if I had not been a black man in SEVENDUST, would it have even gotten bigger?" he asked. "At the end of the day, I'm glad that it took this long because we're still here."