Apartheid for Musicians

David Byrne writes about the denial of visas to foreign performers. His journal does not have permalinks, so look for the April 16 entry. Boing Boing posted a relevant excerpt, but to get a feel for how hard it is to plan a U.S. tour with non-U.S. citizens, read Byrne’s full post.

Byrne chalks it up to “cultural censorship” and writes that “this has less to do with Homeland security and more to do with keeping the American public ignorant and free of foreign influence and inspiration.”

There may be something to that, but the reason musicians and other performers require special hard to obtain visas (P visas and O visas) has more to do with protecting American musicians from competition. In the early 1900s the American Federation of Musicians successfully lobbied to restrict admission of musicians into the US.

Statutory protection of a set of workers determined largely by birth, a familiar story.

Of course the system is ripe for abuse. Cultural censorship is bad result, but there is much worse (I understand that sadly this movie is accurate; eventually I will write a post about it).

End restrictions on the ability to travel, live and work where one pleases. Apartheid is unacceptable within national borders and should be equally unacceptable across national borders.

One Response

  1. […] Apartheid for Musicians. Perhaps visas should be easier to obtain for musicians — to the extent they were made difficult to obtain in order to keep USians free of foreign influence, they are outmoded. But generalizing this to a call for removing all national barriers to travel, live, and work is wildly uncalled for. USian workers, including musicians, do deserve to be protected from race-to-the-bottom competition, and difficult to obtain visas are a key mechanism of protection. […]

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