During a concert Friday (July 5) in Greeley, Colo., country singer Chad Brock decided to weigh in on what he thinks it means to be an American, but his comments have angered the area’s large Hispanic community.
“If you want to come to America, we don’t care,” Brock declared from the stage at the Greeley Independence Stampede Arena. “Come on in! We welcome you, but learn to adapt to our country and don’t try to change it. … If you don’t like it, then you can always leave.”
Brock drew some applause, but many in the audience marched out in protest, according to the Denver Post. Brock and his road manager didn’t notice any departures, according to Brock’s publicist, Crystal Etue.
The number of Hispanics living in Greeley has doubled in the last decade. They now make up nearly a third of the city’s residents. Many immigrants work in local meatpacking plants, especially that of the ConAgra-owned beef company Monfort, Inc., according to the 2001 best-selling book Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser.
“Today, Monfort is still the largest employer in Weld County, with about 4,000 workers at its feedlots, slaughterhouses and processing facilities. The majority of the workers at Monfort’s beef plant cannot speak English,” Schlosser writes.
In the wake of Brock’s comments, José Suarez, department chair of the Hispanic studies program at the University of Northern Colorado, told the Greeley Tribune, “The Stampede is promoting racism. They are sponsoring animosity toward 30 percent of the population in Greeley. Why did they allow some guy to get up and make racist comments, telling us to go home?”
The Denver Post also took issue with Brock and his comments, quoting stage patter in which the singer said, “You are coming to our country. We don’t speak Russian. We don’t speak Spanish. We speak English here.” In an editorial, the paper suggested that local concert organizers “take care never to book him –- or the horse he rode in on -– again.”
Brock worked as a professional wrestler before embarking on a country music career. From 1999 to 2001 he released three albums for Warner Bros. but has not had a major country hit since “Yes!” went to No. 1 in June 2000. He has parted ways with Warner Bros. and has since signed with independent Broken Bow Records.
In a statement issued Monday (July 8), Brock says he did not mean for the audience to interpret his comments as racist and he denies being a racist himself. He goes on to say, “I stand behind the meaning I intended for my comments. I am proud to be an American, and I am proud of the diverse cultural heritage that binds all Americans as one nation under God, as one nation that is proudly indivisible along cultural lines and as one nation that stands for liberty and justice for all.”
The tempest surrounding Brock’s pronouncements isn’t the first time heady issues concerning the American way of life have arisen in country music this year.
In Toby Keith ’s current hit, “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” the singer declares, “We’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.” Keith’s song was written as a tribute to his father, a veteran, who was killed in a car accident in 2001. Keith did not appear on an ABC Fourth of July special because producers deemed the song inappropriate to open the show.
Shortly after that, Charlie Daniels bailed on a PBS special when the producer of A Capitol Fourth requested that he not perform “The Last Fallen Hero,” a newly written song about war and its casualties.
Brock’s own recordings are much less controversial. He is best known for “Yes!,” in which a woman comes to retrieve the mail at her old apartment, meets the new tenant, and they live happily ever after. Brock met his second wife that way in 1999, married her one month later and divorced in January 2001.
Over the years, Latin artists have had uneven success in country music. Freddy Fender and Johnny Rodriguez scored several hits in the 1970s. Emilio, signed to the same label as Garth Brooks , failed to cross over from the Tejano genre in the 1990s, and Rick Trevino had only modest success before returning to his Latin roots as a member of Los Super Seven.
Brock was the opening act for Sawyer Brown . His new single for Broken Bow Records is “A Man’s Gotta Do.” Other country entertainers at this year’s Greeley Independence Stampede, held June 27 to July 7, included Chris LeDoux , Montgomery Gentry , Keith, Sara Evans , Martina McBride , Pinmonkey and Blake Shelton .