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Michaela Coel Talks Adele, Amy Schumer, and White Privelege

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Michaela Coel Talks Adele, Amy Schumer, and White Privelege

A point of view from the “Chewing Gum” creator herself

During the airing of the Grammy’s, audiences were stunned by Adele’s acceptance speech after being awarded ‘Album of The Year’. Barley holding back her tears, she revealed that she could not accept the award, due to tremendous impact Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ had on her life and the lives of her black friends.

Many harshly critiqued the singers statement, but others looked at the movement with a different pair of lenses. Michaela Coel writes her thoughts for The Guardian on Adele’s tribute to Beyoncé and the effect of white privilege:

Frank Micelotta/Rex/Shutterstock

Was there really a white celebrity on stage at the Grammys saying to a black artist: “The way that you make me and my friends feel, the way you make my black friends feel, is empowering”?

We’ve all seen clips of Adele’s inspiring acceptance speech at the Grammys by now. I clicked on the link to watch, and the first thing I heard was Adele saying: “I can’t possibly accept this award … I’m very humbled and I’m very grateful … but my artist of my life is Beyoncé. And this album to me, the Lemonade album, is just so monumental.”

By now my heavy-set bottom lip had fainted on the cement, my eyes were popping from their sockets, and my nostrils were flaring as wide as the Blackwall Tunnel. Adele had won, but had basically said she didn’t deserve it.

Queen Beyoncé’s reaction was so graceful: she was as shocked as we were. Then she blushed as she cried: tears equally laced with humility and pain. Because of the deranged voting process of the Grammys, she would not be joining the ranks of the mere 10 black artists who have won album of the year since the award was created in 1959. Only 10. And none in the last decade at all. Did you know that? If it hadn’t been for Adele’s speech, I wouldn’t have either.

I’ve since seen streams of tweets raging at Adele for “differentiating between races”, chirping “how dare she pity Beyoncé and offer her some kind of pathetic shout out”. I saw things differently.

I screamed, “YES, ADELE, YAAAS” – because what she did in that moment was rare: she thought the award should’ve gone to somebody else, and she told us the truth. She is rare in the creative arts industry; a further rarity is that she’s working class. Did this have something to do with the brave and, to some, outrageous choice she made that night?

All women are disadvantaged to varying degrees in our patriarchal society; and class, race, sexuality, disability and the number of those boxes you tick can make a staggering difference to your status in the creative industry. Having a disability, being trans or brown or female can often give you a distinct, culturally intriguing perspective on life – but it can also, ultimately, be a disadvantage (albeit a beautiful one). .

A report by the Ruderman Family Foundation found that “more than 95% of characters with disabilities are played by able-bodied actors on television”. The academics Irena Grugulis and Dimitrinka Stoyanova found that women and people from ethnic minorities were underrepresented in UK film and TV. So if we can conclude that not being a white male might make things a little harder, being at a “disadvantage” in multiple ways (a gay, trans, Asian woman from a working-class background with a disability, for instance) will make things harder than having the singular setback of being able-bodied but from a working-class background

Her experience of life as a working-class female gave her the ability to see that some black people felt things listening to Beyoncé’s music that white people could not. I bet Adele is probably used to being the one at a disadvantage in comparison with her female caucasian counterparts from wealthier backgrounds in the entertainment business. She’s used to knowing her lack of familiarity with the highbrow cultural norms that suffocate the creative industry makes her different in ways that means she may not always “win”.

Read the full article on The Guardian here

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