It is no secret that the 88th Anniversary of the Academy Awards triggered yet another phenomenon of the lack of diversity in Hollywood. Like last year, this years Academy Awards featured all white nominees in every single category. Although there were a few movies with Black/brown actors that were nominated―including Straight Outta Compton and Creed―it’s very strange that the actors in such films weren’t “Oscar material.” The most questionable nomination of the evening was probably Sylvester Stalone being recognized for Best Supporting Role for his cameo in the film Creed, considering that the star of the movie, Michael B. Jordan, was not nominated. Strange, huh?
The Academy Awards has a history of racism and lack of diversity in their sentiments, but since it’s 2016 we assumed that there would be a change. Last year, we encountered a similar issue when the only black people who were nominated and won an Oscar were Common and John Legend for Best Original Song. Internet trolls would probably attempt to shame the black creatives by simply exclaiming that we should make better movies, but the truth is there are far less opportunities for black actors than there are white. Even when directors and screen writers create a role that is ethnically ambiguous, they still find a way to white wash the cast all together. Movies like Exodus: Gods and Kings and Gods of Egypt, that take place in an African country, star actors Christian Bale and Gerard Butler and a myriad of white cast members representing indigenous Egyptian citizens.
Although this award show marked a historical moment in many actors’ lives like Leonardo DiCaprio, there were several renowned actors, directors and producers who chose not to attend the prestigious ceremony due to the lack of diversity in award nominations. Rightfully so, Jada Pinkett Smith took her sentiments to social media where she explained her reasoning for not attending the Academy Awards this year.
“Begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power. And we are a dignified people, and we are powerful. So let’s let the Academy do them, with all grace and love. And let’s do us, differently.” -Jada Pinkett Smith
Her husband Will Smith, director Spike Lee and several others then followed in her footsteps to take part in this silent protest.
“It would be awkward to show up with Charlize [Theron],” he said in an interview. “We’ve discussed it…. We’re part of this community. But at this current time, we’re uncomfortable to stand there and say this is OK.” -Will Smith
In addition, Rev. Al Sharpton even led a rally―before the ceremony―holding up picket signs that read #OscarsSoWhite.
For the second year in a row, we have experienced a tremendous setback in Oscar history. Unfortunately, this year also marked a year of great movies with Black and brown creatives. Even though 2015 saw amazing performances in movies like Creed starring Michael B.Jordan and directed by Ryan Coogler, Beasts of No Nation starring Edris Elba, Sicario starring Benicio Del Toro, Concussion starring Will Smith and more; it’s disappointing that we weren’t able to see their hard-work come to fruition.
But what do we really want? Do we want more nominations, better parts or simply equality with roles. For the most part, Black and brown people are only cast when the protagonist is indeed Black. However, when a non-black character is played by a Black person, there’s major uproar. For example, when Star Wars the Force Awakens introduced John Boyega to the cast as a storm trooper, SW stans nearly lost there minds when they thought we were going to have a Black jedi. It’s hilarious because storm troopers originally didn’t even show their faces, so as far as we know every trooper could have been Black.
Nonetheless, the Oscars’ attempted to save its name by hiring a Black host―Chris Rock―was pretty weak, even though we were delighted to see some color on the stage. Unfortunately, the renowned comedian frowned some faces when he began blurting out random subliminal’s towards the Smith’s and some awkward moments with Stacey Dash. But the bigger issue at hand is that the Oscars are still as white as they want to be. Maybe the empty seats will change the minds of the Oscars Commitee and lead to a more diverse 89th. Or maybe not.
If the shoe were on the other foot, I’m sure white people would have taken this protest to more extreme measures. Imagine an Oscar’s where all the nominees were Black, what would that feel like?