How Do You Prove Your Heritage to Skeptics? You Don’t

Race Manners: This question and more from an Ask Me Anything on Reddit.

Generic image
Generic image Thinkstock

JDH: Since Sunday’s Grammy Awards (and Macklemore’s wins specifically), there’s been a lot of great writing and analysis on this by people who are better qualified than I am to analyze these patterns. But a few different things resonate with me here. First is the idea that there’s never been a super-tight correlation between artists who receive Grammys (I assume that’s what you’re talking about when you refer to the institutional gatekeepers) and those who go on to be remembered as legends and have wildly successful careers. But second is the argument that however arbitrary they may be, awards do matter because artists who win them stand to earn more.

Third, I read a piece arguing that the patterns can be a reminder of the role of black awards shows, and that seems to make sense to me. Overall, I think this is really complicated (starting with the idea that quality and talent are so subjective when it comes to art). I wish the Grammys would give an award for “album that the individuals on the selection committee thought was the biggest deal according to their perspective and worldview,” instead of “best album,” to help put things in perspective and remind us of what’s actually happening every year.

The Root’s senior staff writer, Jenée Desmond-Harris, covers the intersection of race with news, politics and culture. She wants to talk about the complicated ways in which ethnicity, color and identity arise in your personal life—and provide perspective on the ethics and etiquette surrounding race in a changing America. Follow her on Twitter.

Need race-related advice? Send your questions to

Previously in Race Manners: “I Don’t Want to Be ‘That White Guy’ When Talking About Racism