Back in 2009 at some music award show, Kanye West (who is black) charged the stage during (white) Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech to announce — “I’mma let you finish, but” — that (black) Beyonce deserved to win instead.
Since then, it has become increasingly common for white award-winners to preemptively apologize from the stage to black losers for the obvious racial injustice of their victories, such as Macklemore to Kendrick Lamar a few years ago and Adele to Beyonce last night at the Grammy Awards (which pretty much kept the Oroville Dam off the national news).
Beyoncé and Adele went head-to-head four times at the Grammy Awards on Sunday night. Both were nominated for album of the year, song of the year, record of the year, and best pop solo performance. In every category, Adele was awarded the Grammy. Every time, Beyoncé, the peerless pop music icon of our time, was told she was second-best.
This should be a shock. While Adele’s singular voice, talent, and devotion to her craft are undeniable, Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” was as complete an artistic statement as we have seen in our fractured pop moment — a one-of-a-kind visual album comprised of genre-crossing track after track, conceived and produced on a scale unrivaled by any artist, living or dead. It was also a pitch-perfect rallying cry for black women to get in formation, their allies behind them, and forge a way forward despite the human imperfections of the men in their lives.
Now it might seem to you that blacks win lots of Grammy Awards — e.g., Steve Wonder has won 25 Grammies — but that’s because you don’t understand the true meaning of diversity, which is: Blacks must win everything.
For example, say that next year Ta-Nehisi Coates publishes a 75-page memoir entitled Between the Escalator and My Black Body: More of My Thoughts about the Racist Atrocity that Was the Escalator Incident, but Robert Caro publishes the final volume of his biography of LBJ. And imagine that the book award judges think deep down that, really, Caro’s book is better.