I Would Not Like to Thank the Academy.
For the second year in a row, the announcement of Oscar nominees by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has caused outcry in Hollywood and beyond for the lack of diversity among the nominations. Specifically, no minority actors were nominated for best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, or best supporting actress, and no films featuring African-American actors were nominated in the best picture category. In fact, for films like Creed and Straight Outta Compton, which starred black actors, only white actors and screenwriters earned nominations.
Several black actors and directors have since taken to social media to protest the racial snubbing, and the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite has once again taken over Twitter and other platforms.
In response to the well-deserved outrage the Academy is facing, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs released a lengthy statement this morning promising to revisit the organization’s recruitment and government tactics, but is another promise of diversification enough?
See who is speaking out and what Boone Isaacs had to say, as well as why everyone has been left questioning:
How Could This Happen Again?
Why It Happens
Does the issue go beyond the Academy itself? Clearly there is a much deeper problem at hand, one that starts even before plots are written, even before movies get pitched to studios and some executive behind a desk gives the green light.
The real issue lies in what stories screenwriters choose to tell in the first place. Institutional racism often goes beyond the realm of conscious decisions, instead lingering in emotions, reactions, and ideas, telling writers to change their plots or producers that a certain film would never sell.
The problem of exclusion we have seen, especially these past two years, does not begin and end with the Academy alone, but with the audience that Hollywood serves both before and after production. Unfortunately for the Academy, they are ultimately left in control of the nominations and acknowledgments the public at large sees, becoming responsible, essentially, for the snubs that began even as these talented actors of color started their careers, and well before that.
Tim Gray of Variety writes, “The guilds don’t keep records on the racial breakdown of their membership. But most have training programs designed to help foster more career advancement opportunities for minorities and women. But so far, hiring in Hollywood is still overwhelmingly dominated by white men.” And while the Academy is taking steps to change this, as well as increase their own members’ diversity, reactions from black actors and directors to this year’s nominations indicate that a promise to change isn’t enough.
#OscarsSoWhite… Again. I Would Like To Thank President Cheryl Boone Isaacs And The Board Of Governors Of The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences For Awarding Me an Honorary Oscar This Past November. I Am Most Appreciative. However My Wife, Mrs. Tonya Lewis Lee And I Will Not Be Attending The Oscar Ceremony This Coming February. We Cannot Support It And Mean No Disrespect To My Friends, Host Chris Rock and Producer Reggie Hudlin, President Isaacs And The Academy. But, How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let's Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can't Act?! WTF!! It's No Coincidence I'm Writing This As We Celebrate The 30th Anniversary Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday. Dr. King Said "There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It's Right". For Too Many Years When The Oscars Nominations Are Revealed, My Office Phone Rings Off The Hook With The Media Asking Me My Opinion About The Lack Of African-Americans And This Year Was No Different. For Once, (Maybe) I Would Like The Media To Ask All The White Nominees And Studio Heads How They Feel About Another All White Ballot. If Someone Has Addressed This And I Missed It Then I Stand Mistaken. As I See It, The Academy Awards Is Not Where The "Real" Battle Is. It's In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To "Turnaround" Or Scrap Heap. This Is What's Important. The Gate Keepers. Those With "The Green Light" Vote. As The Great Actor Leslie Odom Jr. Sings And Dances In The Game Changing Broadway Musical HAMILTON, "I WANNA BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS". People, The Truth Is We Ain't In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White. (Cont'd)
Not coincidentally, the rhetoric about this year’s Oscar snubs timed perfectly with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, so many advocates took to social media to continue the dialogue about inherent racism and social justice.
Several actors, producers, and filmmakers made allusions to the life and work of Dr. King, but none more so than director Spike Lee, who posted an Instagram of a young Martin Luther King, Jr. along with a lengthy call to action for not only the Academy, but for Hollywood executives to do their part in shifting the tides toward more inclusion and equality.
Lee first clarifies that he and his wife will respectfully not be attending the Oscars this year, and then writes, “How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let’s Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can’t Act?! WTF!!
“Dr. King Said ‘There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It’s Right’. For Too Many Years When The Oscars Nominations Are Revealed, My Office Phone Rings Off The Hook With The Media Asking Me My Opinion About The Lack Of African-Americans And This Year Was No Different. For Once, (Maybe) I Would Like The Media To Ask All The White Nominees And Studio Heads How They Feel About Another All White Ballot.”
But Spike Lee is not the only big name boycotting the Awards this year.