This year’s Academy Award nominations announcement has caused a country-wide media uproar. Hollywood actress Jada Pinkett-Smith publicly shamed the Oscars for their lack of racial diversity in the nominations. She called for all influential Hollywood actors and influencers, especially those of color, to boycott this year’s ceremony to show their disapproval of the Academy’s lackluster efforts. Thus far, some of Hollywood elite such as Spike Lee, Lupita Nyong’o, George Clooney, Viola Davis, and more have publicly agreed with Jada of the Academy’s continuous diversity dilemma.
The uproar has also poured into social media amongst public opinion, with the trending hashtag created #OcarsSoWhite, reflecting the heavy debate amidst the public and of the unspoken discriminative history of the Academy awards. Some were disappointed of how this was still a major issue in our modern, progressive times, with our African American elected president we’ve had going on eight years now, while others feel that the African American community needs to take responsibility for some of our own somewhat non-inclusive platforms before criticizing the Academy.
For example, actress Stacey Dash, a contributor to Fox News, gave her sentiments of how this Academy awards boycott is somewhat hypocritical. She stated that how can Black Hollywood elite complain about lack of diversity at the Oscars, when we have BET Awards, NAACP awards, Black History month, and many other platforms that only highlight and celebrate excellence within the black community. She believes African Americans need to make up our minds when it comes to diversity. Either we strategize to accelerate diversity in the Academy, or continue to have our own platforms and be satisfied with such.
Stacey has received heavy criticism from her views. The public and many of her fellow African American celebrity peers are disappointed with her lack of reflecting on the bigger issue. The issue is that these awards show that celebrate African American achievements were created because of racism and discrimination. If all American social and media platforms held a wider spectrum of recognition and celebration of people of color, then there would never have been a need for these Black-celebrated arenas. The issue is the source of this domino effect, not the reactions of the excluded.
Playing a bit of devil’s advocate on my end, I do somewhat agree with Stacey Dash. I personally feel that my fellow African Americans need to make up their minds in regards to diversity issues in Hollywood. Are we going to fight for recognition of all or are we going to celebrate our own achievements amongst our own community? I think that all discriminated groups of people based on race, gender, sexuality, etc. need to stop wasting their energy on trying to disrupt the establishment of the Academy awards. It’s constructed of a White, western, patriarch system, and they base their decision-making as such. This fight for diversity can be used towards building up our own platforms. It would be more progressive for the black community if our wealthy elite and influencers joined forces to expand upon our own award shows’ production value, code of conduct, advertisement, and provide it with the utmost respect they deserve. There isn’t any reason why award arenas such as the Trumpet Awards, BET, NAACP, and others shouldn’t be produced at its highest potential, and it is our own responsibility to do so.
I find it disappointing that many Black Hollywood stars don’t even attend many of the Black award shows, but always show out for mainstream awards such as the Oscars, Grammys, American Music Awards, Billboard Awards, and a list of others. I honestly love Jada Pickett, and think she’s an immense talent, but her call for boycotting the Oscars are rich people problems. From all the racial, judicial, and economic disenfranchisement bestowed upon African Americans, this issue doesn’t even make the list. She’s coming off like a disgruntled wife that’s mad that her husband didn’t get recognized for an award that she and her family believed he should have based on the amazing performance he gave. Most people don’t even watch the Academy awards, so it’s relevance amongst everyday common folks holds a lessened intensity, so yes, she has the right to feel this way, but forcing it as a publicized issue was a bit dramatic.
On the other hand, the 2016 Screen Actors Guild Awards was a great display of diverse winners. African American Hollywood elites such as Queen Latifah, Idris Elba, Viola Davis, and Uzo Aduba were all celebrated for their stellar performances throughout 2015. It was wonderful to witness their wins because I think all of these actors are iconic performers. However, I’m a bit on the fence because it was convenient for the SAG committee to honor these talented African Americans amidst the controversy of the lack of diversity in Hollywood; so maybe Mrs. Jada did somewhat productively command attention to this touchy issue.
In retrospect, what ever happened to the days of building and taking pride in counter-cultures? Historically, any group of people that experienced discrimination in America has always created their own outlets and platforms to celebrate their own cultural customs and advancement. I hope we can all get to a point where the Academy award nominations is not even something high on our social radar. When are we, the underdogs of society, going to realize that we don’t need anyone else to validate our excellence; only our presence, and the progressing world we create for ourselves should be the focus of our existence.