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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Michael Barclay

Why Did the Grammys Give a Platform to a Known Anti-Semite?

With the “awards” season in the entertainment industry in full swing, maybe we should all get honest and call these shows what they really are: Anti-Semitic and Anti-American propaganda.

Nowhere is this clearer than the recent Grammy awards, whose viewership was down over 50% from last year’s ratings. The “song of the year” was “I Can’t Breathe” by H.E.R., a song about George Floyd, the convicted felon whose tragic death sparked so many riots. A song that includes the lyrics about bringing a “gun to a peaceful fight for civil rights,” and an American pride in “justifying a homicide.” It is an anthem not for the equality that all Americans (black, white, and everyone) should have, but an attack on our nation while propping up a felon as if he were a saint.

It is true that music has always been a voice for political change, and it should always remain so. Even though this piece of propaganda is over the top, it carries an important voice into the national stream of consciousness.

But the inclusion and promotion of hate-monger Tamika Mallory in the Grammy awards is a great reason to never support the industry again.

Mallory is one of the most vocal anti-Semites and hate-filled people on the national stage today, and giving her time is offensive on its face. She was even thrown out of the 2019 Women’s March for her unrelenting anti-Semitic views and her vocal support of Louis Farrakhan, whose decades-long anti-Semitism is well documented (including calling Jews “termites”). But the National Academy of Recording Arts did much more than that: By giving her a speaking platform they endorsed her hate as well as the devastating riots of the past year as though it was heroic.

Mallory has repeatedly demonstrated that her hatred towards Jews is at least equal to her mentor, Farrakhan. She has repeated anti-Semitic tropes and attacked even left-wing Jewish organizations like the ADL. She justified the riots, which in Los Angeles (and many other areas around the country) targeted Jewish homes and businesses, and she is vocally supportive of BLM’s anti-Semitic core beliefs and practices.

And despite her vitriol, and her unabashed hatred of anything except black radicalism, she was not only invited to participate in the Grammys, but to give a political speech set against a background that adulates the violence of the riots. Screaming for violence, she made threats and demands, proudly asking for “accomplices not allies.” This is a music awards show?

There was a time I loved watching the Grammys (and even attending once). The glitz, outfits, and music were a joy to watch. But what I loved most was how the awards showed the ways that music can bring people together, transcending color and culture to create peace through musical harmony.

The Grammys always celebrated that coming together. I’m old enough to remember the Ella Fitzgerald/Mel Torme spontaneous duet that had people of every color and religion (Torme was Jewish as well) in the audience smiling and clapping. That was in 1976, but the tradition of Grammy performances bringing color and cultures together through music has been consistent throughout the years and included all styles of music from a Chuck Berry/Stevie Ray Vaughn/George Thoroughgood musical mashup to an electrifying Justin Timberlake/Jay Z performance. Throughout history music has had the power to bring people together, and Grammy performances were a reflection of that healing power.

But the most recent Grammy awards were the final nail in the coffin of the music industry using their art to truly heal. Like so many other awards shows, the Grammys have become a mockery of themselves. They are now a podium to express the hate-filled ignorance of spoiled artists. This year they have now even embraced a woman who is not only an anti-Semite, but is devoted to hatred of anyone unlike herself. Mallory’s brief speech is a demonstration of how far the Grammys have fallen, and should be a warning of what not to do at all other awards shows.

Ratings have fallen for all awards shows, and they need to fall even more as long as “woke” hatred is promoted at these events. But the industry members have personal responsibilities as well.

If a racist spoke hatred at an awards show, every black member of that artists’ academy would justifiably protest and resign their academy membership until the academy itself stopped the hate. The same needs to happen now. Music, and all art forms, needs to be used to bring people together, not as a platform for the divisiveness of anti-Semites like Mallory. It is the responsibility of all clear thinking artists to have the courage to come out and publicly condemn the words of people like Mallory, as well as the actions of any organization that gives her or those like her an international platform to preach her vitriol.

Until these artists’ academies return to using their arts to bring cultures together without hate, I suspect that ratings will continue to go down. As long as anti-Semites like Mallory are supported, we all need to walk away from anything to do with these self-aggrandizing awards shows and their industries.

The hate of this most recent awards show is sadly ironic given that it is in the music industry: an art form that has brought people together more than any other art, including and especially the Black and Jewish communities in the last century in this nation. Perhaps nowhere can this be seen more clearly than with what Time Magazine named the song of the century in 1999: “Strange Fruit.” Considered by many the greatest political song in history, written by a Jew (Abel Meeropol), and performed by artists of every color and background from Billie Holiday to Jeff Buckley, this song epitomizes how music can inspire us to work together to make the world a better place.

Music can heal. All arts can bring people together. And hatred destroys. Every member of every artistic academy needs to make a personal choice: Do you support the hatred of Mallory and those like her, or do you yearn to have your art bring peace in the world? Do you support divisive events like the recent Grammys, or do you have the courage to take on your academy and demand that these awards stop being “woke” and hate-filled and return to being celebrations of your art and of all humanity?

Until artists have the real courage to stand up to bullies like Mallory, the award shows and events like them will continue to promote anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, and hatred of all sorts…and the ratings will undoubtedly continue to plummet. May the time come soon when arts are again used for healing; when performances are no longer used for hate; and when they once again become celebrations of arts and not vitriol.

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