It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that, after eight years of the Obama presidency, our society would be so post-racial that we wouldn’t have to concern ourselves with such weighty matters as how many Academy Award nominees were of color. But when we make that assumption, we forget that some of the greatest systemic racism stemmed from Hollywood itself.
Remember the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite? No, it had nothing to do with the statuette, but it had everything to do with the fact that, two years in a row, every one of the acting nominees was white.
This racism was such a problem that Representatives Hank Johnson (D-GA – thank God his district ends across the road from me) and John Conyers (D-MI) actually wrote a letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences calling for more diversity.
Though the talents of African Americans have been recognized throughout the Academy’s history, overall progress in the entertainment industry — like many other industries — has been uneven and mirrors our society’s struggle for diversity,” the congressmen’s letter continued. “We therefore believe a continuing failure to recognize such an important segment of the population by the industry in general and the academy in particular may have a negative effect on competition and diversity in this critical market place.
And President Obama weighed in:
And I think the Oscar debate is really just an expression of this broader issue. Are we making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot?
We should all be grateful for such heroic politicians who are willing to tackle the most important issues of our time.
But guess what? Hollywood listened – or at least the Academy did. AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs enacted a membership drive that raised minority representation in the organization by a whopping 3%. The result? Seven of the 20 acting nominees are people of color, including three nominees in the Best Supporting Actress category.
As a result, Hollywood is no longer racist in its own eyes. The new hashtag could be #OscarsNotSoWhiteAnymore.
Now that we’ve solved that pressing issue, can we take care of some of the less important stuff, like the economy and terrorism now?