OPINION: Are award shows doing enough for people of color?


Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images

Noelle Villasenor, Writer

After a year in quarantine that caused the entertainment industry to stop in its tracks, the 2021 award show season arrived to acknowledge the artists and creators who produced notable work in 2020, or so it may seem. As events such as the Grammys, the Oscars and the Emmys, regarded as some of the highest honors in entertainment, pass and approach, concerns have risen and re-risen about the unfair treatment of minorities by the different academies, which is a large factor in the prestigious awards shows continuing to lose relevance.

In previous years, the Grammys and the Oscars have received criticism for their lack of recognition of artists of color. Black artists especially have been consistently robbed by these academies despite years of work and dedication to their craft, establishing themselves as highly regarded figures to then be ignored or given the bare minimum. Most recently, The Weeknd stated that he, “will no longer allow [his] label to submit [his] music to the Grammys” due to the unfair and outdated voting system utilized by Grammy committees, after outrage rose that his 2020 album After Hours hadn’t received a single nomination.

Major awards shows continue to make shallow proclamations of inclusiveness without actually planning to follow through with their claims, and this year the Grammys were no different. The R&B and Latin categories, dominated by artists of color, were moved to a pre-show that wasn’t aired on television, and artists of color such as Doja Cat, Chloe X Halle and BTS lost their nominations despite 2020 being an incredibly successful year for all of them; Doja Cat, for example, had major breakthroughs with songs like Say So and BTS shattered records all year with their album Map of the Soul : 7 and single Dynamite.

With this year’s Oscar awards, issues of diversity also rose. Steven Yeun became the first Asian-American to be nominated in the Best Actor category; an incredible feat, but one that raises the question as to why, in the Oscars’ 90 year history, has no other Asian-American been recognized in such a major category? Women have also been poorly represented in categories such as Best Director, in which six women, only one of them being a woman of color, have ever been nominated.

Factors of diversity have clearly begun to take their toll on awards shows. This year, the Grammys had some of the lowest ratings in the show’s history, with record-low viewership of only 8.8 million.

It is obvious that these academies use the names of artists of color for publicity in order to fulfill their diversity quotas, never actually giving them the recognition or appreciation they deserve. The 2021 Grammys were another whitewashed overview of music that undermined the artists of color that worked to release notable music during one of the industry’s most difficult years, and the probability of this year’s Oscars playing out in the same way is highly likely. It is unfortunate that these shows still hold so much prestige after years of blatant favoritism towards white and male artists. Soon enough, people will grow tired of waiting for recognition that apparently isn’t coming, and awards shows will continue to lose relevance as creators of color and their fans use their energy to thrive on their own.

What do you think?