Macklemore's 2014 Grammy Win is About Race, But Not the Way Amanda Palmer Thinks
Okay, since when did Amanda Palmer get so interested in weighing in on pop culture? First it was the whole Miley Cyrus open letter business, now it's Macklemore's Grammy win. I always just thought she was the soundtrack to my teen angst (helloooo, Dresden Dolls).
Sure, it's understandable why she would have an opinion on the issue. It's hard for anyone to defend Macklemore's win of Best Rap Album at the Grammy's in a category that included Kanye West's Yeezus, Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d city, Drake's Nothing Was the Same, or even Jay Z's Magna Carta (which, while it's not Jay Z at his best, is still Jay Z). And if that weren't enough, Macklemore texted Lamar an apology and proceeded to post it on his Instagram account so everyone could see what a nice person he is.
But Palmer seems to misunderstand why people are upset about Macklemore's win. She compares Macklemore's contributions to rap to the contributions of Brad Pitt's character in 12 Years a Slave to the end of slavery. While she's not completely wrong — the backlash over Macklemore's win is related to race — she seems to misunderstand where most of the backlash is directed (hint: it's not at Macklemore, unless you count that godawful Instagram).
No, the blame lies with the Grammy voters. Instead of picking any of the three talented nominees up for the award, they picked the white guy who rapped about how he thought he was gay one time. Many want to argue that Macklemore won because of his social justice advocacy and his embrace of the LGBTQ community, especially when rap has a difficult history with that community. But that argument begins to fall apart when one takes a closer look at the rest of the nominees, which rail against modern institutional racism (Yeezus) and decry gang violence (good kid, m.A.A.d. city).
Macklemore may be an ally. Sure, he can be obnoxious, but he seems to have his heart in the right place. He respects hip hop, and he wants to be an ally to the LGBTQ community. But that's not the point. The backlash isn't for Macklemore. He could've been anyone, as long as he was white. That's why although Jay Z holds the record for most nominations in the Best Rap Album category, it's the much-younger Eminem who holds the record for most wins.
So Palmer is right — racism continues to be a huge, sore issue in America, and we still have a long, long way to go. But she's also wrong. It's not allies we're fighting against. It's not the Great White Hopes that win the awards that we're angry at. It's the ones who give them out.