Story Behind the Song: Mickey Guyton, ‘Black Like Me’
Mickey Guyton's "Black Like Me" asks listeners to check their privilege: to stop and realize that "the land of the free" isn't necessarily free and equal for everyone. Appropriately, she released the song on June 2, 2020, dubbed Blackout Tuesday, as the music industry observed a day-long blackout meant to raise awareness of, and spur action around, racism and inequality.
"Black Like Me" reflects on the racism and biases Guyton has faced throughout her life, both during childhood and while trying to find success in Nashville. The title comes from Black Like Me, the 1961 book that chronicles white journalist John Howard Griffin's experiences after he temporarily darkened his skin to pass as a Black man and travel in segregated states.
Guyton's "Black Like Me" co-writers are a relatively diverse bunch: Nathan Chapman is a white Nashville native, while Fraser Churchill is white and from England and Emma Davidson-Dillon, also from England, is Black. Below, Guyton explains how their four diverse perspectives and a bit of empathy helped them write the powerful song.
It's just crazy how certain people can really step outside of themselves and write from somebody else's perspective. Nathan Chapman grew up in East Nashville: He grew up around majority Black people; he grew up really poor. And so he just had a different understanding. Fraser Churchill -- you know, he's from England; he has a different worldview. And Emma D.D., she also is from England.
It was just like -- the fact that all of us, in a room, collectively, knew, and know, that the treatment of Black people is different says so much, and [I'm grateful] that they were able to go there with me. You know, this is a very bold song to write, especially in country music. It's very, very bold, and they were very much so.
All of the writing came from all of us, and I don't know -- it was a "God moment;" it was a unity moment. It really just goes to show, if you really, truly do try to understand somebody else's perspective, you really can. Just, a lot of people don't try.