Assuming the Worst | Letters | Chicago Reader

Assuming the Worst 

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Dear editor:

I enjoy the Reader on a regular basis. I look to it for information on a variety of topics, ranging from music to theater. The July 24 cover story by J.R. Jones ("Ska's Lost Cause") was well researched and generally engaging. As a frequent ska concertgoer, I found much of what Jones had to say of value.

However, there were several statements made by Jones that were unworthy of the Reader. Specifically, "how many junior-high kids bouncing around to Less Than Jake will follow the thread all the way back to Studio One?" Clearly Jones spoke to fans during the Skatalites show. Reference was made to this early in his article. Why, if he feels that this is important, did he not then make inquiries as to their understanding of ska's history rather than making assumptions about their supposed lack of knowledge? Many of the younger people I talk to at shows do, in fact, know their history. Jones was doing young ska fans a great disservice in his rush to dismiss them as philistines.

Secondly, whether younger ska fans understand ska's history is neither here nor there. What would it matter if kids were to attend shows without a thorough schooling in the history of ska? It's perfectly acceptable that they attend ska shows simply to enjoy themselves.

Jones, in reference to the Skatalites Metro show, "couldn't help noticing that there were more black faces onstage than in the audience" and that "a black man in a dashiki stared rapturously at the band while his dreadlocked date cast panicky glances at the skanking white boys all around her." These statements read as if Jones were trying to install himself as the defender of old-school ska by attacking "the man." Also, his statement about the "panicky" dreadlocked person was a subjective interpretation, suggesting that this was a black woman feeling threatened by a relentless white mob. Perhaps it was her first ska show in Chicago; perhaps any number of things were influencing her behavior. In any case, Jones's interpretation reeked of racism.

Lastly, Jones makes reference to the middle-class suburban fans of ska when he writes that the Ska Against Racism show represented the "ultimate bleaching of ska." This characterization seems unnecessarily pejorative: one made simply to further Jones's status as the defender of ska. Would it not be perfectly reasonable to view the ska heard at Ska Against Racism as a natural evolution of the form, rather than a bastardization?

In the end, Jones comes across as a small person with a distasteful air of superiority. I hope this isn't indicative of a course that the Reader hopes to continue on.

Rob Putnam

W. Barry

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