#OscarsSoWhite movement looks to further progress
89th Academy Awards hopes to ignite more diverse nominees in coming years
February 23, 2017
Filed under Opinion
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The 89th Academy Awards, or “Oscars,” are set to take place on Feb. 26 at Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center in Los Angeles, California. After receiving extensive publicity because of its lack of diversity in previous years, audiences are wondering if this year will be more of the same.
With the lack of diversity in the 2015 and 2016 nominees, last year witnessed a major boycott from celebrities including Spike Lee, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, George Clooney and Reese Witherspoon. This outrage among Hollywood and the millions of Oscars viewers in 2015 sparked a social media movement which was created by activist April Reign, an editor of BroadwayBlack.com and NU Tribe Magazine.
Reign came up with the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, which flooded the feeds of Twitter and other social media platforms once news broke of the absence of African-American nominees in the 2015 Oscars.
In the Academy Awards’ 88-year history, only 14 black actors or actresses have won Oscars. Some of these were Morgan Freeman in “Million Dollar Baby,” Jamie Foxx in “Ray,” Halle Berry in “Monster’s Ball” and Denzel Washington. Washington is the only African-American to take home more than one Oscar. The first was won in 1990 for his role in “Glory,” and the second was in 2002 for “Training Day,” according to USA Today.
During the last two years of this major event, all 20 actors or actresses nominated for the lead and supporting categories were white, and in 2016 specifically, we witnessed one celebrity who had, had enough and was given the platform to provoke change.
The Oscars host for 2016, Chris Rock, held nothing back as he opened the show by speaking his mind on the lack of diversity among the nominees.
“I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards,” Rock said. “If you want black people every year at the Oscars, just have black categories. Like: best black friend.”
Chris Rock was not necessarily ragging on Hollywood and the Academy Awards as much as he was trying to allow people to see the world around them. He wanted to bring attention to the issues that many individuals other than himself were noticing. Do not get me wrong, he did let loose a little on the institutionalized racism within Hollywood during his opening monologue, but it needed to be done.
“The real question everybody wants to know in the world is: is Hollywood racist? You know, you gotta go at that at the right way. Is it burning-cross racist? No. Is it fetch me some lemonade racist? No. It’s a different type of racist,” Rock said. “Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood’s racist, but not the racist that you’ve grown accustomed to. Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, ‘we like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.’ That’s how Hollywood is.”
Not only did the viewers and the other people who were simple-minded when hearing about the lack of minority representation in the Oscars need to hear this, but Hollywood and the organizer of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, needed to hear it too.
On Jan. 21, the board of governors of AMPAS approved a sweeping series of substantive changes designed to make the Academy’s membership, its governing bodies and its voting members significantly more diverse, according to Oscars.org. The board’s goal is to commit to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.
It is an absolute outrage that people of color were snubbed of nominations for an acting award two years running, and that did not go unnoticed with April Reign on Twitter. The #OscarsSoWhite founder went right to social media and her followers regarding the news of seven non-white nominees for this year’s Oscars.
“One year of films reflecting the Black experience doesn’t make up for 80 [years] of underrepresentation of ALL groups,” Reign tweeted.
She is absolutely right. Despite the efforts of AMPAS to “diversify the Oscars,” it is almost like it is too late to attempt to change the past. Why has there not been a push to make change in the last 80 years? Pop culture and the entertainment industry do not just include the privileged white American when it comes to fans, celebrities or entertainment personalities. It is not just the African-American population that has been neglected in the years leading up to 2017. Members of the LGBTQ+ community, Latinos and other diverse communities need to be recognized and represented at the awards as well.
That is where Reign is taking her #OscarsSoWhite hashtag next, as she believes there is still work to be done. She wants Hollywood and the Oscars to further expand the inclusion of underrepresented populations beyond African-Americans as she continues to support the popular movement.
In an interview with CNN, she said she is not looking for quotas.
“Just opportunities for people from marginalized communities,” said Reign. “#OscarsSoWhite will continue to be relevant until all people, regardless of who you are or where you’re from, can go into a movie theater, not just right before the deadline of awards season, and see themselves represented on the screen.”
We have already come so far as a worldwide community in terms of racism and inequalities, but these issues still exist. Why not go a little further in the process and eliminate the controversy that can easily be eliminated?
I am sure many of you ask that question everyday, but it lies in our own hands. We need to speak out and shedlight on the situation if we want to achieve more diversity and equality.
It takes one person to inspire a revolution, but it takes thousands to enforce action.