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Institutionalized Racism in the Grammys

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Written by Ethan Perritt

It’s been a long road to the end of racism in America — one that seems never-ending. And even though we’ve made strides as a country, we’re nowhere near the end goal.

In his Grammys acceptance speech for his album, IGOR, Tyler, the Creator, made note of the institutional racism in the Grammys. “It sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me, do anything that’s genre-bending or anything — they also put it in a rap or urban category,” Tyler said. He went on to say he disliked the word “urban” in particular, likening it to “just a politically correct way to say the n-word.”

Similarly, “Hotline Bling” won Best Rap Song even though it’s in no way a rap song.

So what causes this? Well, the voting process for selecting nominees is done behind closed doors. The voting members are also not publicly listed. Contemporary criticism of the Grammys lies in that these voting members do not have any extensive knowledge of the categories they’re put in charge of.

While I believe IGOR is one of the best albums of the decade, Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? would have beat it if it were in the same category, pop. Eilish snagged Best Pop Album this year, likely due to its popularity. IGOR, however, should have been in the pop category — Tyler said so himself.

And without veering off into “hot take territory,” I would venture to say that the voting members are overwhelmingly white. As the list isn’t published, there’s no incentive for the Grammys to even attempt a level of diversity that parallels the ethnic makeup of the US.

The solution — make the list public. Put pressure on those higher-ups. Maybe then we’ll finally see Grammys that reflect reality.