Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Alicia Keys Is Too Black, Apparently

Today was my second day of data entry at the Houston Rodeo. After the rodeo (a three-week long affair held in March), surveys were filled out by the rodeo season ticket holders and volunteers. This is what me, Latasha and Angelina are "data entering."

First, survey respondents are asked to use a 10-point scale to rate their experiences on a number of items. For each rating, they can also write a freehand comment about why they chose that rating. In order to facilitate analysis, we don't actually type these freehand comments; we code them based on a list of about 300 common comments.

Unfortunately, whoever put this comment list together was woefully disorganized and misguided. There are about five different codes for "parking sucked" but no codes at all for other very common complaints (like "the cops don't know how to direct traffic"). At first I was spending a good deal of time trying to code comments (some of these folks wrote whole paragraphs and attached separate pieces of paper). But then I realized that I didn't care. So most of my comments boil down to code 5, "Needs improvement." (I do enjoy paging through to find some of the more colorful comments though. For instance, code 130 = "Where are the people with sticks to help livestock flow?")

On the reverse side of the survey is a list of the two dozen or so musical acts that performed during the rodeo. Respondents were asked to rate each artist on a 1-to-10 scale as well as complete a complicated check-box matrix indicating whether they attended the performance themselves, whether they knew someone who had attended, whether they gave tickets to someone else, and whether they wanted that artist to return next year. And of course there is room for freehand comments.

Country acts were the meat of the show. There were a handful of pop/rock groups (like Maroon 5). And then there was Alicia Keys (the only concert that Boyfriend and I attended -- she was fantastic, by the way...woman can sing).

A disappointing pattern emerged early on. The country acts got varying scores in the high range. Opinions were split on the rock groups. But people were unanimously hating on Alicia Keys. Even people who marked that neither they nor someone they knew had been to the concert were rating her as a one (she also got a few zeroes and a handful of negative numbers). Freehand responses included, "Too many black performers," "This is a rodeo, for God's sake, no more black artists," "Spanish artists are ok, but not blacks," and, most apropos, "NO MORE RAP MUSIC!"

It's no wonder the conversation among us three temps soon turned to race relations in Texas. And then the three of us colluded again and started stuffing the ballot box for Alicia. From now on, she gets a 10 on every survey keyed by me.

The final part of the survey asks you to name a wishlist of performers you would and would not like to see at next year's rodeo (regardless of whether they've ever performed at a rodeo). Of course Alicia Keys was at the top of many "no" lists. Instead of her name I've been coding in various other artists like Elvis and Sinatra.

One anti-Alicia respondent was also strongly against "M&M."