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Grammys miss diversity standards once again

Every year during awards season, discussions about diversity and inclusivity are reignited. This year has been no exception, especially following the inauguration of Donald Trump. Celebrities didn’t hesitate to call for unity and diversity in the wake of the election. This seemed a bit ironic considering that these shows have always lacked diversity and celebrities are only now acknowledging the issue.

The debate reemerged during the Grammy Awards ceremony last week. Just as they did with the Oscars, critics argued that too few artists of color were nominated for awards. In response, the Grammy Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said that he does not think that there is a race problem at the Grammys, and that one should join the voting member board if they want to bring further diversity into the ceremony.

In response to his statement, I began to ponder the question: when can something, be it an award shows or other event, truly be considered diverse? After the #OscarsSoWhite controversy last year, the Oscars made a phenomenal “comeback” by nominating seven non-white actors. Nevertheless, it is clear from this particular group of non-white nominees that the so-called diversity only extended to black artists, while overlooking many others who also deserved to be included.

One ought to ask whether diversity is being pursued for diversity’s own sake or for some other reason. Furthermore, will the lack of recognition for artists of color affect aspiring musicians or avid music listeners?

In all fairness, I cannot provide a definitive answer for any of these questions. I do know, however, that in continuing this conversation, one cannot avoid the fact that the music industry itself will soon become just as politicized as the film industry has become. As polarized politics have spread far and wide, soon there will be few – if any – facets of life that will not be highly contested amongst liberals and conservatives.

In some ways, diversity ends up becoming a factor in the machinery that leads to the polarization, instead of being the goal or mindset that this country ought to aspire to.

It’s easy to shrug off those who argued that the diversity controversies surrounding these award shows are merely signs of compliance to the emerging culture of political correctness. Nevertheless, as I mentioned earlier, what good will additional diversity in these awards bring, especially in these times? Will it enable us to create a more harmonious discourse and understanding with those who think differently than us about political issues?

If it does show that America is going down a path of diversification that cannot be ignored anymore, how will it help convince those who voted for Trump that this phenomenon will not alienate them, and that they should just embrace it like many already have?

These are the questions that one ought to ponder and reflect on as they navigate ongoing diversity discourse, not just during awards season but throughout the whole year. This is also important here at St. Olaf, as the college diversifies its student body. We’ve already become politically divided according to the songs and movies we enjoy based on whether or not they’re representative of all.

In 2007, a poll by the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California showed that classical music is the most popular genre among both conservatives and liberals, with “world” music being the greatest source of disparity between them. In addition, out of 15 different genres, conservatives were more likely to listen to country and gospel, while liberals’ musical preferences were spread out over rock, punk, hip-hop, blues, reggae and jazz. On that note, for those of you who are truly interested in the politicization of the arts, the next time you see your friend with their earphones in, you might want to ask what type of music they are listening to.

Samuel Pattinasarane ’17 ( is from Jakarta, Indonesia. He majors in Asian studies and political science.