Millions of Americans have already gathered in the streets to protest the election of Donald Trump. Not to mention the countless others seeking more radical forms of resistance underground.
But the system that gave us President Trump can’t be fixed if we’re not all ready and willing to forfeit the privileges it provides.
Frank Ocean’s decision to withhold his latest projects from Grammy contention isn’t as drastic as liquidating your 401k or boycotting federal institutions in response to the election. But Frank’s move is an example of the sort of personal sacrifice required to legitimately challenge any oppressive system.
“I think the infrastructure of the awarding system and the nomination system and screening system is dated. I’d rather this be my Colin Kaepernick moment for the Grammys than sit there in the audience.” – Frank Ocean
It’s nearly impossible to reform a system from the inside, because systems are designed with self-preservation as the primary goal. An awards show won’t willingly change unless forced by sponsors, viewers or participants. Our government isn’t much different.
So everyone who is troubled by Trump’s election must do a personal audit of their American privilege to determine just how much they are willing to give up to get free.
The issues that artists have with institutions like the Grammy’s and the Oscars aren’t much different than the concerns of many U.S. citizens. Elitism, lack of transparency and cronyism threaten the legitimacy of all three. The only thing keeping these and other corrupt institutions alive is our compliance and participation.
Judging from his statement, Frank’s Grammy decision wasn’t made with the emotional haste of protest or the steadily-built frustration that leads to most rebellion. His boycott actually appears to be the logical conclusion of a simple equation:
1. This system is fucked up
2. I will be OK with or without it.
3. I’m not going.
If other dissatisfied musicians follow Frank’s lead and sacrifice their own potential success or gratification for the greater artistic good, the Grammy’s would be at the mercy of its musicians.
But since few humans are secure enough to forfeit privileges that they consider necessities or entitlements, it’s highly unlikely that the Grammy’s, or this country, will be changing its tune anytime soon.
So claims that Trump’s “not your president” are empty if you’re still complicit in the system that produced him.
If you are truly disgusted with our government, find a way to leverage your own privilege to empower others.
Take your money out of the stock market and invest in a local business or aspiring student. Keep paying your taxes, but stop banking with commercial institutions and shopping at corporate stores. Learn how to farm, cook or engineer. And find time for public service or mentor ship.
You’re also welcome to cancel your cable service and interact more directly with your fellow citizens, both online and in person. Just please don’t forget to instill in all kids the importance of independence and benevolence. Consider homeschooling them if you can afford the time. Instill in that personal accomplishment and material possession don’t determine their value.
We all played a part in the election of Donald Trump, whether we voted for him, Hillary or Harambe.
We complied by playing a game we knew to be rigged then complaining when we lost. By participating in an electoral college that was originally created to offset the voting power of freed slaves. And by believing that this country could ever willingly kick its addictions to capitalism, patriarchy and White Supremacy without outside opposition.
So no, we can’t change this system from the inside. And if we continue showing up, smiling and clapping for the cameras in hopes of one day winning a trophy, we can’t be mad when they use us as their losers.
Every time we put our personal security or ambition ahead of our collective dignity, the system gets stronger and individuals get weaker. But if we all believe, as Frank does, that we can and will survive America without the privileges it promises, then we will finally have the freedom to build a nation worthy of our greatness.