How to Be an Ally (as Shown by Adele)

It’s been almost a week since Adele’s 25 won the 2017 Grammy for Album of the Year over Queen Bey’s Lemonade. In the days since the upset (and it was an upset by all definitions of the word), much has been said about whether Adele’s not-so-acceptance speech was the right thing to do. Some praised her, while some scolded her mention of her “black friends,” her “mommy” joke, and everything in between.

I will say this, it wasn’t perfect, but it was damn near close… And she could teach us all—myself included—about how to be a good ally.

Over the past few months the focus of how to “be a good ally” to marginalized communities has become a hot topic. A Google search of the phrase will return millions of results with articles guiding straight/white/able-bodied/etc. people on how to help more or telling us what doesn’t—which is awesome, by the way.

Fighting alongside members of groups that you don’t belong to while keeping sight of your own privilege can be difficult. I don’t mean for it to sound like I’m complaining (I’m not), but I feel that the fact that it’s a tricky spot is important to acknowledge in evaluating Adele’s statements last Sunday and what we can learn from her. Whether her words were perfect, which I don’t think that we can expect from everyone in an off-the-cuff speech on such a complex issue, she did everything in her power to draw attention to the injustice that she felt had just been done—even though that injustice benefited her.

The biggest point of criticism of the Adele has seen in the days since have had to do with three specific words that she chose: “my black friends.” Look, if that left a bad taste in your mouth, I get it. It never looks good for a white woman to mention having black friends when making a statement about racism. Although she didn’t say that her win was about race explicitly, her intent throughout the speech was clear—especially considering her further comments backstage. Adele’s shout out wasn’t to highlight her own non-racism—it was meant to highlight the unique experience of black womanhood expressed through Lemonade.

Adele knew good and well that she won because the Grammy voters were not the people that Lemonade spoke to most. She mentioned those friends to show that she understood that she, herself, did not represent that demographic either. To ignore that fact in this context would have been a shocking, if not unforgivable, oversight.

Of course, everyone was disappointed and confused when Beyoncé didn’t take home the top prize, but the fact that she didn’t is not Adele’s fault. To hate on Adele for the Grammys picking her over Beyoncé is unfair especially since she used the platform she was given to draw attention to the injustice and the importance of acknowledging the power of Beyoncé’s work on Lemonade (and throughout her entire career).

At the end of the day, isn’t that what the best allies do?