Why The Grammys' Diversity Initiative Isn't Enough
Award season is in full swing and the 61st Annual Grammy Awards are next in line with their televised ceremony scheduled for this upcoming Sunday. This year brings new changes to the esteemed music event, most notably of which is the expansion of the Grammys’ highly-coveted categories: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. Instead of spotlighting the traditional five, the list of nominees for each aforementioned category has grown to include eight different spots. The decision to increase the number of nominees is part of the Recording Academy’s efforts to diversify its representation of the music industry.
Announcement of this small change followed the reveal of the Academy’s Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, led by Tina Tchen, a founding member of the Time’s Up movement that has brought the systemic issue of gender inequality within the entertainment industry to the forefront. Recently, there has been growing scrutiny and criticism of the Grammys, as well as other major award ceremonies, due to their lack of diversity amongst the performers, winners, nominees and the voting committee itself. It is reported that, of the Recording Academy’s 12,000 eligible voting members, only 21% are female and 28% are people of color. In an attempt to address these frighteningly-low numbers, Tchen publicized the Task Force’s initiative to invite 900 new voting members across disciplines who were under the age of 39 (to curb the monopoly of older executives), women, or people of color.
While the Recording Academy’s efforts to more accurately and inclusively represent today’s music scene are a step in the right direction, they offer only a band-aid solution to a greater systemic fracture within our society. Historically, people of color, women, and young people have all been perceived as less capable of holding positions of power, regardless of what sector or profession is in question, leaving ample room for older, white men to claim and reaffirm their privilege. If you disagree, pick any industry of your choosing and research the demographics of its executives. I assure you the results will be overwhelming white and/or male.
Installing diversity initiatives such as the Recording Academy’s can be immensely beneficial (for the time being), but until we deconstruct and revolutionize how we, as a society, perceive and treat marginalized peoples, simply fulfilling a “diversity” quota is not enough.
Julia Eunji Choi