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

More articles by:

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.

Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
Karl Grossman
Disaster Island
Thomas S. Harrington
What Nerve! In Catalonia They are Once Again Trying to Swear in the Coalition that Won the Most Votes
Pepe Escobar
Rome: A Eulogy
Robert Hunziker
Will Aliens Save Humanity?
Jonah Raskin
“Can’t Put the Pot Genie Back in the Bottle”: An Interview with CAL NORML’s Dale Gieringer
Stepan Hobza
Beckett, Ionesco, and Trump
Joseph Natoli
The ‘Worlding’ of the Party-less
Julia Stein
The Myths of Housing Policy
George Ochenski
Zinke’s Purge at Interior
Christopher Brauchli
How Trump Killed the Asterisk
Rosemary Mason - Colin Todhunter
Corporate Monopolies Will Accelerate the Globalisation of Bad Food, Poor Health and Environmental Catastrophe
Michael J. Sainato
U.S Prisons Are Ending In-Person Visits, Cutting Down On Reading Books
Michael Barker
Blame Game: Carillion or Capitalism?
Binoy Kampmark
The War on Plastic
Cindy Sheehan – Rick Sterling
Peace Should Be Integral to the Women’s March
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
No Foreign Bases!
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Across the Boer Heartland to Pretoria
Joe Emersberger
What’s Going On in Ecuador? An Interview With Wladimir Iza
Clark T. Scott
1918, 1968, 2018: From Debs to Trump
Cesar Chelala
Women Pay a Grievous Price in Congo’s Conflict
Michael Welton
Secondly
Robert Koehler
The Wisdom of Mass Salvation
Seth Sandronsky
Misreading Edu-Reform 
Ann Garrison
Full-Spectrum Arrogance: US Bases Span the Globe
Louis Proyect
Morality Tales on the American Malaise: the Films of Rick Alverson
David Yearsley
Winston and Paddington: Marianelli’s Musical Bears
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail