Almost exactly a year ago, The Scrapbook reported with dismay that the Kennedy Center Honors (“Mau-Mauing the Kennedy Center,” Oct. 15, 2012) were under assault from Hispanic pressure groups because the annual selection of five (mostly baby boom pop culture) performers had an insufficient number of recipients with Latino blood. Now, as we said at the time, “The Scrapbook resolutely refuses to take the Kennedy Center Honors seriously,” and the carefully calibrated list for 2013—Billy Joel, Martina Arroyo, Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, Shirley MacLaine—does nothing to change our opinion. But it surely says something about the state of the culture (and we use that word advisedly) that the elite press heralded the news this year with a focus on ethnic scorekeeping: “Kennedy Center Honors Include Two Latinos” (Los Angeles Times), “Kennedy Center Honors List Includes Two Hispanics for 2013” (Washington Post), “Latinos Among New Kennedy Center Honorees” (New York Times).
It is more than a little discouraging that the Kennedy Center was successfully lobbied to choose its honorees on the basis of ethnic origin. And the “honor” for Arroyo and Santana is now tainted by the notion that it’s blood, not achievement, that counts—as those headlines confirm.