‘I’m just determined not to turn away from it’: Garbage’s Shirley Manson on tackling social injustice

The first time Shirley Manson of Garbage realized how out of touch she was about the struggle of Black, brown and Indigenous people was in 2012, immediately after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman.

“That slapped me out of my complacency,” Manson told host Tom Power in an interview on CBC Radio’s Q. “And I am deeply, deeply ashamed of my own ignorance. It’s not something I can ever fix. You know, I can’t fix the past, but I certainly can do plenty about the future.”

Manson makes good on her word on the band’s politically charged new album, No Gods No Masters, which sees her speaking out about systemic racism, colonialism, sexism, misogyny and the detrimental effects of capitalism.

WATCH | Official video for No Gods No Masters:

The album takes its name from a late 19th-century anarchist slogan, which the singer said perfectly captures her intentions for the record.

“[The album title] sort of falls in line with the Garbage philosophy, which is, you know, all human beings should be treated equally,” she explained. “And it’s not really any deeper than that.… The disparities between peoples are never more apparent than now.”

Until white people get on board, we cannot possibly change this outrageous disparity.– Shirley Manson

Alluding to Canada’s recent reckoning with the grim legacy of residential schools, Manson told Power she feels it’s her duty, as a white person with privilege and a platform, to amplify important conversations.

“The problem is — and I think white people get really defensive about this — is that … we are ourselves brainwashed,” she said. “We, as white people, we are taught to ignore racism because it’s in ‘everybody’s interest.’

So as a white person, I don’t think necessarily, you know, you should spend any of your energy as I did, beating myself up about not knowing, choosing not to see. I’m just determined not to turn away from it [anymore]. And I want to encourage white people to really get on board. Because until white people get on board, we cannot possibly change this outrageous disparity.”

While some have interpreted Manson’s lyrics to be anti-white or anti-male (on the album’s first track, The Men Who Rule the World, she sings, “The men who rule the world / Have made a f–cking mess”), she disagrees with this conclusion, rather saying that the message of her music is simply anti-power.

“Unfortunately, predominantly, the seats of power are held by old, white men,” she said.

Written by Vivian Rashotte. Interview produced by Stuart Berman.

Read more at CBC.ca