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2016 Oscar nominees are #SoWhite

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Illustration by Brittany England/The Pioneer

Illustration by Brittany England/The Pioneer

Illustration by Brittany England/The Pioneer

Briana Wharton,
Contributor

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For the second year in a row, no African Americans were nominated in any of the top six Oscar categories by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Not surprisingly, there’s been an uproar of criticism at the lack of diversity being recognized in American film.

It’s upsetting because there were plenty of great African American actors and directors that made Oscar-worthy movies in 2015 that got snubbed.

Will Smith in “Concussion,” Idris Elba in “Beast of No Nation,” Samuel L. Jackson in “Hateful Eight,” Michael B. Jordan and director Ryan Coogler for “Creed” and the ensemble of Black newcomers and director F. Gary Gray for “Straight Outta Compton.” Let’s not forget last year when actor David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay didn’t get nominated for the movie “Selma.” What a shame, the sting of last year’s snub continues this year.

“At the Oscars…people of color are always welcomed to give out awards…even entertain, but we are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments. Should people of color refrain from participating altogether? People can only treat us in the way in which we allow. With much respect in the midst of deep disappointment,” tweeted actress Jada Pinkett, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

She later announced she would boycott the Oscars and asked others to do the same. Director Spike Lee also put out a statement saying he cannot support the all-white ballot at this year’s ceremony.

The Academy has a membership of over 5,000 Oscar voters, nearly 94 percent of which is Caucasian and 77 percent male with an average age of 62, according to a study conducted in 2012 by the Los Angeles Times. Approximately 33 percent of voting members are former nominees and winners, according to the L.A. Times

The lack of diversity among the nominees is because there isn’t any diversity among the voters. Black actors in films directed by Black directors will never be fairly recognized by an Academy who is simply out of touch with today’s moviegoers.

You can count the number of past African American winners for best lead actor and actress on one hand. Within 88 years of Oscar history, only five have won the honor. Forest Whitaker in 2006 for “The Last King of Scotland,” Jamie Foxx in 2004 for “Ray,” Denzel Washington for “Training Day” in 2001, Halle Berry for “Monster’s Ball” in 2001 and Sidney Poitier in 1963 for “Lilies of the Field.” There is an enormous gap between the winners.[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”Her plan is flawed because nothing will change by adding diversity into a predominantly Caucasian academy — it’s like adding colorful sprinkles into a white bowl”[/mks_pullquote]

Hollywood continues to be blatantly racist towards people of color, despite the fact that the Academy’s current president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, is African American. She released a statement saying she is, “heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion” and agrees it’s time for a change. She wants to implement a five year plan called A2020 that aims to promote more diversity of age, gender, race, national origin and point-of-view, in Hollywood, according to The Hollywood Reporter. But this process is too slow.

Her plan is flawed because nothing will change by adding diversity into a predominantly Caucasian academy — it’s like adding colorful sprinkles into a white bowl, just because you add sprinkles, it does not mean the bowl isn’t white.

The Academy should consider wiping out their entire list of members and recruit new ones; not just to add color, but also to have variation in the age, gender and sexual orientation. There are 17 total categories that receive awards and we need to see a wider range of people receive those awards. The film industry needs a friendly reminder that diversity is good for showbiz, in front of and behind the camera.

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2016 Oscar nominees are #SoWhite