Robin Thicke is nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Surprised? He’s nominated for three of them in fact.
— Robin Thicke (@robinthicke) January 22, 2014
His song “Blurred Lines” was the indomitable song of summer 2013 so, quite naturally, it’s up for a lot of awards. Doesn’t it seem odd though that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People would include Thicke on its short list of potential honorees? Well yes, but maybe it shouldn’t.
According to its own website, the NAACP Image Awards exists to honor black people in the media.
[The] NAACP Image Awards is the nation’s premier event celebrating the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts, as well as those individuals or groups who promote social justice through their creative endeavors.”
Historically the “Colored People” in the organization’s title referred to African Americans in the same way it does among the casually racist and old school. But for the past few years the NAACP Image Awards have nominated white performers with increased regularity. Emma Stone, Sandra Bullock and Angelina Jolie have all been nominated for awards. This year ABC’s Modern Family, a show with precisely zero African Americans in its cast, is nominated Outstanding Comedy Series. So it’s not unusual that blue-eyed soul singer Robin Thicke is up for an award. At least not on the basis of skin color alone.
How about all that “social justice” promoted in “Blurred Lines”? Actually, the song has been widely criticized for its portrayal of women and its attitude about sex and consent. If you’ve been paying attention, it’s pretty obvious why.
The song dubbed the most controversial song of the decade has been described as misogynistic and rape-y, but controversy hasn’t precluded Image Award nominations in the past. In 2004 R. Kelley was nominated while he was under investigation for child pornography.
So if the NAACP Image Awards are not exclusive to people of color and not about positive “image” then what are they? What use is an awards show that’s abandoned its titled mission and therefore doesn’t represent anything? It’s great that an organization born in a time of segregation can evolve to a place of inclusive diversity, too bad it doesn’t mean anything.