As a woman and one of mainstream country music's few black artists, Mickey Guyton has been a prominent voice in the fights for both gender and racial equality in the genre. However, in light of country-wide protests following the death of George Floyd — and the recent deaths of other black men and women at the hands of police — Guyton is finding even more people looking to her for thoughts and guidance.

In a new essay for Billboard, Guyton shares her thoughts on how country music fans, but also humanity at large, can help create a more equal, just and welcoming community. "The answer is simple," she says: "Step outside of yourself for a moment and consider other people."

"I’ve been aware of other people, specifically white people, my entire life because that’s the way America was designed. White is normalized in America ... But do you see me? Do you see us? The answer is no. Let that sink in," Guyton writes. "My point to all of this is that we have a lot of work to do from the ground up."

Change starts, Guyton explains, with opportunities: "In order for someone to become something, they must first be seen," she reflects. "With opportunity comes possibility."

The singer urges label executives to "look for artists and musicians outside the typical talent pool." Specifically in country music, which is full of influences from black genres, Guyton says, labels should "look to the black and brown communities for actual talent, not just inspiration."

Those with hiring power, meanwhile, must "really try and find young and old, black and brown people to join your team." If they're interns, "mentor them. Don't just put them in a corner and have them do mundane tasks."

"The more visible we are, the more normal it is for us to be amongst one another ... Find black and brown makeup artists, videographers, photographers, hairstylists, session musicians, singers and songwriters," she continues; however, Guyton cautions, "Hire them, sign them, but don’t do so to fill a quota. We don’t want handouts. Hire them because you believe they are the best man or woman for the job. Just give them the opportunity."

More broadly, Guyton encourages everyone, "When you hear or see racism, don’t be afraid to call it out." It's a problem that will take a wide, sustained effort to end, she says, "but it has to start with each of us as individuals."

"Don’t be afraid to speak up. Your voice matters," she says. "You cannot simply stay silent, as silence in the face of racism is the equivalent of acceptance of racism. If we all speak up as individuals, then our collective voice of anti-racism will be deafening and undeniable.

On June 2, as the music industry observed a day-long blackout to encourage reflection and action around its inequalities, Guyton dropped a brand-new song, "Black Like Me." The track describes a childhood spent feeling different and out of place because of her skin color, but was inspired by her struggles in Nashville, too.

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