Even though the US has made leaps and bounds in regards to racism, there are still a few remaining industries that have failed to adapt to the change, and it’s not necessarily the industry’s fault. Let me explain.
The Academy Awards, hosted yearly by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is one such example of this lingering racial segregation. The Oscars, as they’re more commonly known as, first began as a radio program in 1930 and then progressed to the television in 1953 during the consumerism boon of the ‘50’s. There’s no coincidence the Academy Awards is the oldest entertainment awards ceremony and still holds onto outdated racial issues. I believe there to also be a connection to the fact that The Oscars were founded during the civil rights movement of the 1950s. So what specifically is the issue with The Oscars?
Of the 1,663 nominations from 4 acting categories, only 65 came from Black backgrounds, 26 from Hispanic, and 8 from other nationalities. It’s scary to think that this isn’t even referring to just the Academy winners, but is based out of the total nominations in The Oscar’s history. This is obviously an issue as there are many distinguished African or other ethnic directors being entirely disregarded. But why is this the case? In an investigation done by the Los Angeles Times in 2012, they found that 94% of Academy voters were white, and 77% were men. And just two years later they did similar investigation to see if the soaring percentage had dropped at all—It hadn’t, remaining at a strikingly high 93%. But if not the common people, then who actually are these voters? To become a member of the academy, you must be invited by a board of governors from one of the 17 branches that range from directing and acting to public relations.
There are obviously a lot of minorities speaking out against this injustice, but the loudest voice against this “white-out” has been from the African American community. Black Directors and artist in films like, “Creed”, “Straight Outta Compton”, “Beasts of No Nation” and “Concussion” all went unrecognized.
And there are more films coming out in 2017:
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Set to release: December 16, 2016)
This new Star Wars film will feature not only a unique female role with Felicity Jones as the main character, but also a strongly diverse cast including Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, and Forest Whitaker among the cast.
Sleight (Set to release: April 7, 2017)
Another film with a lot of potential to push The Oscars out of this “white-out” would be the film Sleight by African-American director J.D. Dillard. The film premiered to a select audience at Sundance and received excellent reviews.
Any one who had the privilege of viewing these films already released to the public could agree that they had a place at minimal on the award nominations, if not actually winning the award. And where were the women nominees? Or nominees from the Latino community? Much was lacking and change is most evidently needed.
In an interview with Variety.com, Stephanie Allain, the L.A. Film Festival Chief as well as producer of movies such as “Hustle & Flow,” said that, “Diversity does not just happen… you have to have the intention to make it happen. You have to talk about it. And then you have to walk the walk”. With this advice in mind, we must respond to this injustice in the same way all racial matters seem to be resolved—by flooding the industry with our cry for racial and sexual equality. If enough voices say no, eventually, (and it will take time especially in old organizations such as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) change will happen.