American Idol racist?

Find my latest American Idol article here.

When I saw that the bottom two contestants on the stage were the only two black contestants left in the competition, I cringed.  I could hear the cries of racism in my mind.  When I got up this morning I did a quick Google search, and was disappointed to see that my suspicions were well founded.  I found people who thought American Idol was racist, America was racist, Simon was racist, and all of the above, due to the fact that Syesha and Chikezie were in the bottom two on last night’s Idol.

I want to say first, that I know there is racism in the US still to this day.  I have seen it on occasion, and as a white person, it makes me nauseous and embarrassed.  I once had a lady at a business ask me, “Do you know any women who might want a job…, you know white women?”  I felt as if I had been punched in the gut.  I had never been faced by this type of overt racism. It made me feel dirty, and I was offended that she thought she could include me in it.  I left as quickly as I could, but I regretted not saying something to her about it.

On another occasion, I was in a Wal-Mart with my wife (I do not tell this to disparage Wal-Mart, it just is the place where the event took place.  I personally love Wally World), and the lady running the fabric section was speaking to a lady customer from India (in traditional dress) as if she were a piece of trash.  I listened for a moment or two, and finally said, “If you don’t stop talking to her like that, I am going to get a manager.”  She stopped addressing her in the manner.  The Indian lady was so meek, that she thanked my wife for what I did, instead of me.  Two other customers who were standing there thanked me, and I still told the manager on the way out.  I felt pretty good about myself that day.  It was almost like I was part of one of those PSAs.  I brought all of this up to say that I know America still battles racism, but more and more it is a dying relic of another generation, and good riddance.  We’ll all be better when it’s gone.

What occurred on American Idol this week was not, however, an example of racism in America.  First of all, I think the American Idol audience deserves a little credit.  Many of the top contestants on Idol throughout the years have been black, and fully half of the winners have been black (Fantasia, Reuben, and Jordan). 

The problems that put Syesha and Chikezie in the bottom two had to do with them not racism.  As I have said before, I think that they both have two of the top voices in the competition, but their lack of success stems from elsewhere.

First, it should be noted that they both sang at the top of the show.  It is just a fact that a bad performance or a bad song choice at the beginning of the show can often be the death-knell for contestants.  While both sang well, they chose their songs poorly.  They were both boring and forgettable songs.  I stated in my last post that I do not believe the Motown love (or love-sick) song can win on Idol (look below for more information on this).  These songs come-off badly on Idol.  The only time they seem to work out for the contestant is when they are a Whitney or Aretha song with an incredible vocal, and then the contestants are playing with fire.  When Chikezie went away from this kind of music he did well, and Syesha seems to only shine when she is singing a Whitney song (which she does well).  I’ve said before that Syesha may have the best female voice in the competition, but she is also the most inconsistent person in the competition.

Personality is a big part of American Idol, and these two contestants have done little for themselves in this department.  Syesha seems detached and aloof from everything that is going on.  And that “baby cry” thing she has done twice may be the most irritating thing I’ve ever heard.  She does not emote well in her songs either.  All of these are reasons that she turns up in the bottom three from time to time, and some of the other contestants are so far ahead of her at this point in the personality department that the damage may be irreparable.

Chikezie, on the other hand, broke Idol rule number one: Do not argue with Simon, you will always look like an ass.  He argued with Simon on several occasions and at times came off angry or looked as if he were pouting.  These things do not go over with the Idol audience.  Self-effacing is the way to go, and David Archuleta is the poster-boy for this crowd-winning trait.  I will accept that there may be a cultural disconnect here.  It may not be appropriate to appear all self-effacing like Archuleta where Chikezie is from, and I can understand that, but it does not mean the audience is racist if there is a disconnect because of it.  Chikezie was a contestant, and it was his responsibility to win over the audience, not the audience’s responsibility to evaluate all of the cultural mores involved in the situation.

In the end these two found themselves in the bottom two because of personality, attitude and song choice.  Lighten up, not everything is about race.

9 Responses

  1. I really appreciate what you wrote. I also cringed when I saw the only two black contestants in the bottom three. It could quite possibly be that , in an effort to shed the submissive mannerisms that were expected of black people in years past , that Chikezie somehow handicapped himself by not placating to Simon. What a bizarre place we are at in our cultural evolution! Does anyone else see the crazy irony in this?

  2. I think they both did really good in my opinion, but when it came to the voters, they obviously did not enjoy their performances. I don’t think America was racist at all. Kristy should have definitely got out though. But I think that “Vote for the Worst” website is becoming popular again, unfortunately. I searched it on Google and on the website it said to vote for Kristy. That stupid website seriously should stop spoiling the show! Anyway that’s just my thoughts about it.

  3. stop acting nice. american Idol is racist. If you are white you will vote for white. If you are black you will vote for black. I feel sorry for Ramielle Malubay. There is less than .5% of Filipinos in america. There is a BLACK judge and i bet Randy Jackson would prefer a Black American Idol than ramielle. Let us be realistic. I fee sorry for Ramielle, Jasmine Trias and Camille Velasco.

  4. If you are going to post a comment on my blog, I would appreciate it if you were more relevant and less stupid, unlike the person who commented above.

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  5. America idol is now racist for sure. You mean to tell me Jarmar is not in the top 36. They are some very good white singers in the competition but the black singers are not getting their fair shake. What is it 3or 4 in the top 36. Maybe i am overeacting but I think they are trying to keep as few blacks as possible.

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  8. First of all I applaud anyone that makes a stand to any form of racism. As a black man in America and a student to the music industry, I see what goes on on American Idol not as necessarily racism but race fueled business tactics. Who in their right mind thinks that the most talented singers are chosen to compete on American Idol. If that is what you truly believe then raise your hand up high… and slap you yourself. Contestants are carefully picked according to who will appeal to the most people subsequentally making the most money. We as Americans need to understand that in 95% of business you are never going to receive the best products, just the ones that will appeal to the most people for marketing and sales purposes. With that being said you should now understand that in a predominately Haitian market that consists of a predominately Haitian audience you would see predominately Haitian contestants on Haitian Idol. You will probably not receive the best Haitian singers or performers, just the ones that translate into easy money towards the Haitian market. So what makes you think that American Idol with its predominately Caucasian audience would not use these same tactics. It is all about the $$$. If you want to be the next black American Idol the trick is to completely destroy the competition ie Fantasia Barrino. That’s just the cold hard truth. I’m sure people are going to scream conspiracy theory about what I just said but ask yourself why it wasn’t Jennifer Hudson versus Fantasia in the finals of their season? American Idol is like mash potatoes. A whole lot of potato with a little bit of yellow butter and black pepper added in for flavor. It takes a very powerful grain of pepper to be tasted over all that potato.

    • You are off base on so many things here, I do not know where to begin. Your assumption that Idol tailors its contestants for its audience is true in some respects. They obviously try to cover the gammit from musical styles to different races as much as possible when choosing the contestants on the show. The fact is, blacks as a race have been disproportionately represented on Idol since the beginning of the competition. They have definitley won a disproportionate ammount of titles in the eight seasons of the program, and those winners, unfortunately have proven that they can not sustain the spark that drove them to victory on the program. The truth is that the facts simply do not support any of your contentions, and do prove that quite the opposite is true.
      Your statement “why it wasn’t Jennifer Hudson versus Fantasia in the finals of their season?” Just so you know, Fantasia is black also, and you said earlier that she was easily the best that year. Hudson was not driven off the show by the judges, she lost by a vote. I’m sorry, white people are simply not organized enough to pull of a conspiracy of that magnitude. I know I am one.
      Yes, in America, there are more white people, for now, but you simply cannot label what happens on American Idol as racist. The numbers put the lie to that argument, and America has proven with the results that all it wants is a good show.
      The saddest part of all this is that when black people bow up and label every bit of adversity in life as racism, they make us all numb to the acts of real racism that unfortunately occur in our nation every day. True racism should cause all white people to feel shame, but these petty unfounded accusations weaken the blow of real in-your-face racist activity.
      As far as Lil’s exit from season 8, it was time for her to go, She was never that good in the competition, and the judges’ repeated attempts in the early weeks of the show to prop her up each week was simply confusing to me. She was flat EVERY time she sang, and I don’t think the judges mentioned it once.
      I just wish they would have given her an honest criticism instead of confusingly telling her every week to ‘be someone else’ or ‘pick a different song.’

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