In a new interview with Full Metal Jackie's nationally syndicated radio show, SEVENDUST frontman Lajon Witherspoon, who is African American, was asked how his role as a metal singer can best effect positive change in this time of heightened awareness in America. He responded (hear audio below): "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," he continued. "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]. 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," Lajon added. "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 this 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 25 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 said he hasn't seen racism at SEVENDUST gigs in recent years, but more than a decade ago on tour with SLIPKNOT he saw "a couple of knuckleheads" in the mosh pit give the Hitler salute, oblivious to what it meant.
Asked if he or SEVENDUST are viewed or treated differently because he is black, Lajon said: "No, not at all. 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."
Four 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."