Let me start by being completely transparent: I did not watch the Grammy’s. I know… I know. But I am in grad school and occasionally I study.
For me studying usually includes spurts of real work followed by small facebook breaks, which I should admit that I am not proud of; however, last night I was super grateful for the constant updates on who was doing what at the Grammy’s (and who, in turn, was pretty butthurt). Then today, I found some time to watch some of the most… controversial performances.
I want to start my discussion of this by taking a step back to last year around this time. Beyonce had given a superbowl performance that stunned. Kendrick Lamar had taken to the Grammy stage with a performance that called forward the real and visceral realities of racism in the US. And I had never even heard of A Tribe Called Quest (I know… I know. My head is hung in shame).
While many of us celebrated Beyonce and Kendrick’s bold statements against racial inequality and the homage paid to the people of color who came before us to fight this inequality… some seemed to struggle in finding the merit behind such politically charged moves. This article goes so far as to slam Beyonce’s nod to Malcolm X as racist because “Malcolm X was a terrible, disgusting, racist display of humanity who even called white people ‘white devils.'” This one exposes just how many white people decided that, because Kendrick Lamar decided to share the experience of Black America with the audience, he’s a racist too. Is there a way to insert an eyeroll emoji here? Because seriously… I really don’t think some white people get how racism works. Here’s how I have explained it in the past and hopefully it helps:
Anyway, fast forward to 2017 and here we are, talking about Beyonce again. And instead of Kendrick, we are talking about A Tribe Called Quest.
I think what strikes me is that many conservative white people are cool with this:
But threatened by this:
I would like to say that I don’t understand why… but I do.
Beyonce channeled the beauty and feminine strength of every woman of color across the globe. She did all of this in a move entirely separate from her AMAZING album, which lost to Adele’s ’25’, indicating that the Grammy’s may, indeed, have a race issue. A Tribe Called Quest raised their fists in solidarity to: a. galvanize the nation to stand against the oppressive practices of our new administration and b. pay homage to the ever-important civil rights leaders and activists who are (and were) working to stand up for the rights of people of color every day.
And after all of this, much of (Trump supporting) white america lost their damn minds.
So let me say this: If we are classifying Kendrick Lamar’s or Beyonce’s or A Tribe Called Quest’s performances as racist, but defending Donald Trump’s oppressive actions and his supporters’ right to forego “political correctness” to engage in hate speech… If we are willing to defend the KKK’s right to free speech AND assembly, but at the same time stating that Black Lives Matter activists are a threat to national security… and then further stating that it was acceptable for our government to murder Black Panther Party members in their homes and/or place them on lists classifying them as terrorists… then I think there might be a bit of a double standard going on.
The rise of people of color has been seen as threatening for centuries, as it directly challenges a status quo that benefits white Americans. It creates in the oppressor a new level of fear, as he notices that he is slowly becoming the minority. This fear consumes him and makes him lash out (Oh HAYYY DT and his supporters)… because he knows deep down how he treated the minority when he was in power and he fears what this might mean for him. Watching people of color band together against white supremacy is a direct threat to white privilege and, for this reason, it will always be touted by them as “racist” and “race-baiting.” Acknowledging the power of this movement would mean acknowledging the impending loss of theirs. After all, “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”
For some more reading, click some of this: