Is ‘American Idol’ Facing Racism From its Audience?

Julia Delbel
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People have been talking about American Idol‘s Disney night all week. But the hottest topic of that conversation isn’t the amazing performances we saw, or Katy Perry’s amazing Ursula getup. Sunday night’s results re-fueled a long-standing Idol debate: is there some sort of racial bias involved with this show?


Sunday’s episode ended with the elimination of Dimitrius Graham and
Uché from the competition, with Alyssa Raghu joining them in the bottom 3. These three were among the bottom seven last week, but were each chosen by one of the judges to be saved and stay in the competition.

They were also three of the only three people of color left standing, with Dimitrius and Uché being the only two black contestants in the top 10, or to even make it to the live rounds. And this was something that did not go unnoticed by a lot of fans.

https://twitter.com/tayfoe14/status/1121220693058904069

While others simply rolled their eyes at the people upset by the results.


https://twitter.com/_leahthomas13/status/1120147544691085314?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1120147544691085314&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.yahoo.com%2Fentertainment%2Fidol-so-snow-white-a-controversial-doubleelimination-on-american-idol-disney-night-034733164.html

One thing to note is that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a scenario like this on Idol. Of the show’s previous 16 winners, 12 have been white. And it’s fairly common to see the bulk of the people of color to make it to the live rounds leave relatively early (like last season when we lost at least one person of color every week and the finale ended up consisting of – you guessed it – three white contestants.

While I would guess most of the audience isn’t thinking directly about the races of the contestants when voting, there may be some implicit biases involved. While this can never be confirmed as RIGHT, it does make sense. While Idol isn’ on FOX anymore, ABC’s main demo tends to be a bit more on the conservative side, compared to, say, NBC where The Voice airs (though not without this sort of thing happening at times as well).

It’s very unfortunate that we often lose talented people of color so early on this show like we did on Sunday night. Is it racism? Probably not explicitly, and it’s definitely not always the case. But when these sorts of scenarios happen this often, it seems very possible that there is some sort of internal bias going on. For some reason, a lot of American Idol‘s (predominantly white) audience seems to have an easier time connecting with and getting behind performers who…fit a certain mold.


How can this change? Will it ever change? Is there even anything that needs to change? Conversations like these can be difficult – even uncomfortable at times – but they’re certainly ones worth having. So please, share your thoughts on all of this in the comments below!

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