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Darius Rucker on supporting Black Lives Matter: 'I'm sure I've already lost fans'

The country music star spoke about why he couldn't keep living his life "like everything was OK" in the wake of George Floyd's death.
/ Source: TODAY

The death of George Floyd and worry about his three children have brought about a change in Darius Rucker.

"I've lived with racism my whole life," the country music star told Harry Smith on TODAY. "It made me realize I can't keep living my life like everything's OK because everything is not OK."

The former Hootie and the Blowfish frontman posted a lengthy message on Instagram last month about his experiences with racism, a week after Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody sparked protests against racial injustice across the world.

"I have faced racism my whole life, from kindergarten to the life I live today," he wrote. "Racism is not a born thing; it is a taught thing."

Rucker said on TODAY that he had come to accept racism as a simple fact of life, especially as a Black artist in a predominantly white music genre.

"Really, you get to a point where you go, 'That's just how it is,'" he said. "When I was going to radio stations and you got guys telling me, 'We're not gonna play you 'cause you're a Black guy,' that's just the way it is.

"I can't live like that anymore. I can't just go, 'It's OK,' and go on with my life and let somebody say something that I know they shouldn't say."

Rucker knows there is a risk in becoming outspoken about sensitive issues in country music.

"One sentence can end your career in country music," he said. "Proven. Look at the Dixie Chicks, biggest thing in the business, they say one sentence, every station stops playing their music.

"That's the dumbest thing I ever heard in my life. You know, it wasn't about their politics, it was about their music."

Supporting the Black Lives Matter movement has had a cost for Rucker.

"I'm sure I've already lost fans,'' he said.

Rucker added, "You become a rich Black man and you think racism goes away. It doesn't. There's people that hate you more because you're rich."

Rucker has had conversations with his youngest son, Jack, 15, who will be old enough to drive soon, about how to interact with police if he gets stopped.

"All the time we have to talk about that,'' he said. "You get stopped, keep your hands on the wheel. Don't do anything until he tells you to do it.

"You've seen so many times when something so innocent as a traffic stop or something, and then all of a sudden someone gets shot. I don't want that for my boy. I don't want that for my daughters. I don't want that for anybody."

Rucker says he has been stopped because he's "a Black guy in an expensive car," and "it's happened a million times."

"And the thing is it's not gonna change until enough people say it's wrong," he said.

The singer hopes this moment can be a turning point in striving for equality.

"It feels like so much of the country really wants some kind of change,'' he said. "Don't know what we're gonna do, don't know how we're gonna do it, but they want some kind of change. And so, for me, it feels different, and I hope I'm right."

Rucker also spoke to Smith about how much he's missed performing during the coronavirus pandemic. "I love playing live music for people and I'm missing it so bad," he said.

He's gearing up for a socially distanced concert in Nashville this weekend, as well as a virtual "Darius & Friends" concert on the Grand Ole Opry stage on July 30, benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.