by Dr. Boyce Watkins
[Reposted from ThyBlackMan.com]
”I don’t know what this means. I don’t think it means anything.” – Singer Eddie Vedder after winning a Grammy for “Best Hard Rock Performance” with his group Pearl Jam in 1996.
“I think the Grammys are nothing more than some gigantic promotional machine for the music industry. They cater to a low intellect and they feed the masses. They don’t honor the arts or the artist for what he created. It’s the music business celebrating itself. That’s basically what it’s all about.” – Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of the band “Tool,” who refused to go to the Grammys to receive an award.
I don’t watch the Grammy Awards. I could care less who wins, who loses, who was nominated or who is going to win next year. Why? Because I don’t pay attention to things that are almost entirely worthless.
For many black artists, the Grammy Awards are this fickle celebration of negro pseudo-validation that allows us to feel worthy as artists. White America isn’t exactly lining up to be a part of our awards shows, but we somehow want our oppressor’s children to give us their stamp of approval. In case you’re wondering, this kind of thinking is actually both sad and sick.
Despite the criticism, I can understand why a Grammy has some value: It helps you sell more records and make more money. But engaging in this perpetual paper chase, where we belittle ourselves for artificial carrots, can leave us devoid of dignity and self-respect. Nobody respects a bunch of people who spend their lives begging for a handout.
Here are a few quick reasons that the Grammys are probably never going to recognize black artists in an authentic way. They are also the reasons why we’re going to keep allowing the Grammys to play with our heads like the $2 prostitute who thinks that President Obama is going to leave Michelle so he can take care of her kids:
1) In case you haven’t noticed, the Grammys are run by white people: This awards show was not created for you. It was created for a select group of people to recognize the artists THEY value. You can’t blame them for thinking this way, since we do the same thing with the Soul Train Awards (I would say the NAACP Awards, but that ceremony has gotten a little weird). Imagine if you were holding an event for your own family and your neighbor kept getting offended because they weren’t invited to participate. You would look at that person like they were pathetic and insane.
2) Because you don’t finance the Grammys: He who pays the bills makes the rules. In case you haven’t noticed, black people don’t have any money, at least not relative to whites. This is because whites spent 400 years stealing the money we would have earned and are refusing to consider the idea of paying us back. But either way, these awards shows, as with most media, are built to make money via corporate sponsorships. So, until we start seeing “The Grammy Awards, brought to you by Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry and Dr. Cornel West,” you probably won’t have too many African-American artists winning out over equally-talented white ones.
3) Because you are looking for your oppressors to validate you: I can’t begin to explain how illogical, counter-productive and unfortunate it is that black people have been trained to look to white America to make us feel better about who we are. That’s like a battered wife looking to her abusive husband to tell her that she’s pretty. In that case, he will a) withhold his affection unless she is doing something to please him, and b) only distribute that affection in such a way that it preserves the pre-existing hierarchy. In other words, you will never be allowed to be equal to whites if you are seeking equality in a vacuum that is colonized by white America. Second translation: You can never move into someone else’s house, where they pay the rent, and have them ever acknowledge you as an equal partner in the maintenance of that home. Third translation: If you want to be respected, you need to have your own sh*t.
4) Because black people don’t control media: I regularly hear complaints about whites stealing black American culture, art and music. But the fact is that whites, like anyone else, prefer to hear and see things that come from people who look and sound like themselves. Min. Louis Farrakhan and I agreed on this and discussed this matter during our New Paradigm forum in Chicago. So, ask yourself: If you could hear your favorite music from someone who looks like you vs. someone who does not, which would you choose? Don’t answer the question, because you and I both know the answer.
The point here is not to disparage those who’ve been fortunate enough to win Grammy Awards. It’s to say that maybe if we all turned off our televisions and stopped watching this nonsense, it wouldn’t have so much power over our lives. The Grammy Awards are only relevant because they were created in 1959, a time when African Americans didn’t have the opportunity to create similar ventures of their own.