On 7 December 2015 the web site National Review published an article titled “Petition Demands Adele Admit She’s Successful Only Because She’s White, and Insists She Give Away Her Money,” asserting:
A petition addressed to Adele, President Obama, and Billboard on Change.org demands that the singer admit that she has “little talent” and is succeeding mainly because of her white privilege … The petitioners also “demand that Adele donates her money to African-American causes such as #Blacklivesmatter.”
The National Review‘s article was concise, primarily including quotes from the petition in question. Not addressed by the piece was whether the petition represented a legitimate effort to elicit such an admission from Adele. It also did not look into who might be responsible for the petition, or even whether any significant portion of Black Lives Matter activists (or people in general) had ever objected to the singer’s “white privilege.” Neither did a range of other outlets that covered the petition, including WND, The Inquisitr, and IJ Review.
National Review author Katherine Timpf addressed the petition as definitively authentic, rather than a possible hoax, and wrote:
Although Jones’s petition had just 31 supporters at the time of publication, its very existence is ridiculous enough — and for so many reasons. After all, even if Adele did have a privileged upbringing and was a size 0 with D-cups, saying that she has just “a little talent” is objectively wrong. “A little talent” is the kind of phrase you use to describe someone who had the best voice in the high-school choir before going on to realize she needed to get a real job. Fan or not, anyone with ears and the ability to know what words mean would have to admit that Adele falls into a different category.
What was true was that a petition titled “Adele Needs To Publicly Recognize Her White Privilege” was published to Change.org on 30 November 2015. The petition was credited to an individual named “Rihanna Jones,” who didn’t return any hits in a Google search restricted to before 30 November 2015. Jones (or a hoaxer using that name) wrote:
Adele sold over 3.38 million copies of her album “25” and the media is praising her as if Adele’s success has everything to do with talent. Rather, it’s her white privilege that has put her on top.
Adele’s album has sold more than albums from Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Janet Jackson, although these three beautiful ladies all had much better albums that were talked about more. The fawning over Adele by fans and the press continue to show how minorities are repressed in the music business.
We demand that Adele publicly acknowledge that although she has a little bit of talent, it’s her white privilege that is selling her album. We also demand that Adele donates her money to African-American causes such as #Blacklivesmatter.
A simple way to determine whether the petition was likely a hoax or joke would be to locate any extant complaints of that nature. On 30 November 2015, the web site RollingOut published an article titled “Real talk on race: Adele’s talent shouldn’t blind anyone to her privilege” (which appeared to be the sum of all examinations of Adele’s privilege across the internet.) The article, which was created on the same day as the petition, said:
It doesn’t matter whether or not you think Adele’s music is brilliance or trash — she benefits from White privilege, regardless. She can be marketed to adult contemporary audiences who would’ve never considered buying a Tamia or Deborah Cox album 20years ago. She can be marketed to angsty suburban youth who have never heard of Jazmine Sullivan, Elle Varner or Teedra Moses. If you put White people in a set of circumstances and compare it to Black people in a similar set of circumstances, White people will generally have the advantage because White people won’t have the extra hurdle of racism to overcome. That’s the privilege. So if Michael Jackson could sell 25 million copies of Thriller, then I have to believe that a White artist with the same album, same videos and same fortuitous timing would’ve sold even more. Because it’s good to be great, but it’s even better to be White.
As such, it was true that a 30 November 2015 editorial piece suggested that Adele’s success was partly possible due to the fact she was white. However, we were unable to locate any larger campaign to decry the singer’s “white privilege.” Although multiple media outlets covered the Adele petition as legitimate, there didn’t appear to be any movement behind it.
Moreover, the “Rihanna Jones” to whom the petition was attributed appeared to not exist (a significant detail elided in coverage of the petition.) It’s possible that the Change.org campaign was genuinely created by a person who believed Adele’s white privilege enabled her success, but that opinion was neither popular nor espoused by many.