2017 VMA's Promote Social Justice and Address White Supremacy
By Ella Goldblum
The content and tone of speeches at this year’s MTV VMA awards reflected a growing concern for social justice, both in the population as a whole and in celebrities. A new award category called “Best Fight Against The System” was created to reflect the MTV audience's engagement on social issues like "environmental justice, immigration, LGBTQ equality, and racial justice," per a press release. The award was presented by Susan Bro, whose daughter Heather Heyer was killed by the white supremacists in the Charlottesville attack. In the spirit of Heather’s activism against hatred and the collaboration that good activism demands, MTV chose to honor all nominees for the category: Alessia Cara, Big Sean, the Hamilton Mixtape, John Legend, Logic, Damien Lamar Hudson, Taboo, and Shailene Woodley.
Furthermore, Susan was introduced by Robert Lee IV, a pastor and a descendent of Civil War general Robert E. Lee, who said, “We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism and hate. As a pastor, it is my responsibility to speak out against racism, America’s original sin.”
This was far from the only mention of politics at the VMA’s, though. The first two words of Kendrick Lamar’s set were “police brutality,” making it impossible for the audience to ignore the more modern consequences of white supremacists’ past actions. And the political conversation wasn't singularly about race, either: P!nk and Alessia Cara both addressed body shaming, with P!nk sharing a heartfelt speech about her daughter’s struggle to be accepted due to her more masculine look.
Expectedly, some critics were not fans of the award show’s social justice emphasis, and would prefer that the network simply stick to pop culture. For example, Breitbart News published a scathing article stating that “the leftwing music network...sucks” and noting that ratings this year were at an all-time low. But many, many others appreciated the network’s effort to move beyond glamour and gossip and address the issues that permeate pop culture.