FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

We Don’t Need White Approval: Why the Oscars and Grammys Don’t Appreciate Black Art

by

shutterstock_87610327 (1)

Racism is a white problem. Yes, the nature of racism and the system of white supremacy is such that sun kissed populaces often experience the underside of the American democratic experiment, but, I maintain, racism is a white problem.

Those accustomed to white supremacy are terrified by black political and cultural self-sufficiency. Part of what made the Black Panthers so terrifying was their lack of interest in what white folks thought of what they said or how they lived. A sure way to become divisive is to live in a way that centers blackness, not whiteness. What is ironic about this fear is that individuals who pushed back against white supremacy are the ones that moved America toward actualizing her ideals.

Black folks advocating for the right to vote, to attend a desegregated school, to overcome housing segregation were all doing a service to this democratic experiment. Black Americans are a major part of why America has the potential to be great. You can have Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, give me Stokely Carmichael and Ella Baker. Some of the greatest Americans have been black men and women advocating and agitating for their rights. Yet, despite this truth, many today engage in practices that center whiteness.

When we need the approval and validation of the dominant group in order for us to see our own work as valuable and worthy, we engage in a vicious form of internalized racism—one that centers whiteness even as we engage in the subversive work of expressing black brilliance.

This begs the question: Do we have the ability to live free of white supremacist thinking? Can we see and appreciate black beauty without the oppressive lens of euro-normativity filtering our gaze? Are we able to validate achievement without whiteness as the standard for excellence?

Of late, much attention has been paid to the racial homogeneity of the Academy Awards. For the second year in a row, the nominees in the major acting categories have been all white. There are calls to boycott the Oscars, and the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite has been trending now for months. This is reminiscent of a few years ago when there was outrage over Macklemore’s The Heist sweeping the rap category at the 2014 Grammy Awards. Many were critical of the Grammys because Kendrick Lamar’s beautiful, polyvalent Good kid, M.A.A.D. City was largely ignored.

This did not surprise me. There is historical precedent of white folks being celebrated for appropriating black culture. That’s why Elvis Presley is honored and not Big Mamma Thornton. That’s why Led Zeppelin is celebrated while Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon are largely forgotten. That’s why the Beach Boys’s Surfin USA is cherished and Chuck Berry’s Sweet Sixteen is barely remembered. Most white Americans want a black sound and black culture without actual black people.

Too often we sit at the door of White America asking them to recognize us. We perpetually celebrate the first of us that white folks allowed to hold a position. We are consistently outraged when white institutions do what they were created to do and marginalize people of color. We constantly demean and ghettoize the NAACP Image Awards, the BET Awards, and other spaces that have historically made room for and celebrated black brilliance.

When you convey more worth to white access and recognition than you do to black affirmation, you participate in your own oppression. We need to support, protect, and prioritize those spaces that celebrate our blackness, not award shows that tokenize our culture.

At the 2016 Grammy Awards, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly was recognized five times, but Taylor Swift’s catchy, yet shallow 1989 garnered her second Grammy for Album of the Year. While I’m happy for him, we should never use a white standard of excellence to assess black talent. TPAB, like Beyonce’s “Formation”, was not made for white people—and I do not expect White institutions to celebrate it.

I am reminded of the words W.E.B. Du Bois wrote to eulogize the brilliant scientist Carter G. Woodson: “No white university ever recognized his work; no white scientific society ever honored him. Perhaps this was his greatest honor.” When white institutions fail to appreciate the work of black folks, we should not be outraged. We should consider it an honor.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.18.51 AM

Lawrence Ware is a professor of philosophy and diversity coordinator for Oklahoma State University’s Ethics Center. He can be reached at:  Law.writes@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail