Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
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:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Debate Night: Undecided is Everything, Advantage Trump
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail