Staff Writer Michaela Peterson
Image Courtesy of Contently.com
#Oscarssowhite is trending again this year. For the second year in a row, no minorities have been nominated for any of the prestigious Academy Awards, despite the downright phenomenal performances by many black actors, writers, and directors this year. Between the incredible performances in movies that focused on black lives, like Straight Outta Compton and Creed, to movies that didn’t focus on black lives at all, like Star Wars and Concussion, you would think at least one black actor or director would make the cut, and yet no such luck.
Where does this biased nominating come from? When it comes to equality, Hollywood is a notoriously problematic town, with its roots in sexism and racism. The majority of the people who nominate and decide who wins the Oscars are white men over 60. Only about 11% of the people with nomination power are African American.
In response to this situation, several celebrities have announced that they will be boycotting the Oscars this year, including Director Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith. And according Oscar executives, Oscar host, Chris Rock has rewritten his opening monologue due to the controversy. Several white actors have spoken out, saying that the industry as a whole needs to change. The Academy itself is even changing the rules, making it easier for more people of color to make up the nomination board. Of course, this protest has not gone without reaction. People like Whoopi Goldberg are saying that boycotting the Oscars will do nothing. Others are saying that this isn’t the right thing to boycott and raise a fuss about.
So, what does public reaction look like outside of Hollywood? English teacher Matthew Kay and Junior Tianna McNair weighed in for SLA Media. Both are African American and notably passionate about racial issues. The general idea from both was the same: Yes, black people need representation and recognition in movies, but there are bigger issues to worry about.
“When I rank the injustices that are happening to people who look like me day-by-day, millionaire actors not getting awards does not rank very high,” Kay said. “It is important that kids get role models. It is important that kids see that artwork gets rewarded.”
“I’m not saying that it’s unimportant. I’m just saying it doesn’t have a high resistor for me,” he continued.
When I asked McNair about what her thoughts were, she said, “It’s not surprising at all. But just because they don’t get an award doesn’t take away from the fact that they had top-selling movies, like Straight Outta Compton.” She also admitted to not really caring about or watching any award shows.
In many ways, the two of them are correct. How truly important are the Oscars when, according to a 2012 study, 1 in every 15 African American men is incarcerated? How important are the Oscars when racial profiling is still a real and terrible reality for so many? What is it about the Oscars that raises our emotions more than these other, much more real and prominent issues? Why do we care more about celebrities than our own peers and a people we know? What is it about celebrities that makes us care?
The most likely answer to that question is that our media is so obsessed with celebrities that their problems seem like our own. And some celebrities use that platform to speak out about real issues, however many just chose to focus their attention, and therefore the media’s attention, on the issues that directly influence them. While I’m not saying that the issue of representation in the media isn’t important, I believe, like many others, that there are far more important issue to focus on. We need to focus on getting underprivileged kids into the arts and off the streets. We need to focus on the fact that we are consistently underservice a large percentage of our population. We need to focus on the fact that black men and women are being killed in the streets and their white murders aren’t identified. Once all that changes, will the culture and the media begin to change. Only when African Americans are treated like equal citizens will the Oscars begin to change.