The Grammys on Campus

As music’s biggest night approaches, University of Alabama students draw comparisons between the University of Alabama and the Grammys.

By Curtis Williams
News Reporter

For the first time in over 19 years, not a single white male artist or group was nominated for either Album of the Year or Record of the Year at the 2018 Grammys. The fight for diversity has seen a platform in both popular culture and on the University of Alabama’s campus.

Hollywood seems to be leading the force and pushing the subject of diversity in popular culture, but diversity has also been a topic on the University of Alabama’s campus.

Throughout the entertainment industry, celebrities continue to voice their frustrations about the lack of diversity in the nominees of prestigious awards and more notably, the winners. Critics have been vocal about the Academy, the panel that chooses nominees, and their alleged favoritism.

In one of the biggest upsets of 2017, Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” lost to Adele’s “25” for Album of the Year. Thousands of angry viewers and even Adele spoke out about the Academy’s dismissal of people of color. This is a sharp contrast between this year’s assurance that a minority would win the biggest award of the ceremony.

Elizabeth McKnight, a Gender and Race Studies professor at UA, said the diverse nominees set the tone for a new climate in the industry, which trickles into other areas of the entertainment industry.

“It is significant historically, politically and symbolically,” McKnight said. “Our day-to-day is saturated with contentious political whiteness, and at least in this small but high-profile way, the entertainment industry is providing a much needed counterweight, reminding us of narratives, voices, and faces that must be brought to the center in order for us to progress as a country. It represents resistance, which is very necessary right now and always.

The diversity of this year’s Grammys has provided the opportunity for Alabama students to speak about diversity, both locally and globally.

Ivan Bailey, a senior majoring in special education, said quick fixes are not the best solution for the diversity issue.

“With the Grammys, it seems as easy as only nominating people of color or women, but then it sets a precedent of people thinking they were only nominated for that reason,” Bailey said. “At this college it can feel that way as well. When diversity becomes a hot topic, whether in the fraternities or in the SGA, the first solution is to quickly add more minorities. That seems like less of a solution and more like we as a society are pacifying the bigger problem.”

Pacifying these issues is a commonality between both the Academy and the University of Alabama. When challenged after last year’s award show, Academy President Neil Portnow refuted allegations of racism, much like Alabama’s statements regarding issues of race and diversity on campus.

Victoria Noland, a senior majoring in psychology and former sorority member, said the underlying problems of diversity in Greek Life mimics the issues in the entertainment industry. 

“Both the University and the Grammys don’t realize the implications of not diversifying,” Noland said. “People notice when something is not right, and just like with celebrities and the Grammys, students are finding it acceptable to voice their frustrations. We should see the diversity of the world represented on campus and in the media. Fraternities and sororities should be as accountable as any other organization that does not actively seek to represent everyone.”