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Op Ed: The Academy Awards Non-troversy

Before anyone jumps down my neck, hear me out.You may (or may not, depending on what rock you live under -- my rock is wired so I am certainly aware of these goings-on) have heard about the current call against the Oscars due to a lack of diversity on the upcoming red carpet. I call it a non-troversy because it's nothing new. However, this year, the voices are growing stronger on both sides of the argument, which in my humble opinion (yes -- it's my opinion so please don't judge) is emboldened by the under- and over-tones of the current US political climate and the growth of the #BlackLivesMatter movement ... but both of those are huge topics in and of themselves not to be covered in this post.Let me be clear: for me, this is about overall diversity because there have been actors from both European and non-European backgrounds involved in the Academy for a long, long time. Yet, let's look at the time line. Best actor went to Syndey Poiter (first African American actor to win) in 1963; the next African American actor to win was Denzel Washington in 2001. The path is quite dissimilar for women: people speak of Hattie McDaniel -- she won best supporting actress in 1939 (a major feat), but the first African American woman to win was Halle Berry in 2001. But wait -- there's more: actors come from more than African American and European backgrounds. This infographic from indieWire says it best:Diversity InfographicThe most powerful piece of this infographic for me is the 'in the last 10 years no winners of acting Oscars have been of Latino, Asian, or Native American descent'. Let that sink in.I watched my local entertainment news this morning and there was a snippet from actor Penelope Ann Miller:

“I voted for a number of black performers, and I was sorry they weren’t nominated ... I don’t want to be lumped into a category of being a racist because I’m certainly not and because I support and benefit from the talent of black people in this business. It was just an incredibly competitive year ... I loved Beasts of No Nation, and I loved Idris Elba in it — I just think not enough people saw it, and that’s sometimes what happens. Straight Outta Compton was a great film; I think it just lost some Academy members who are older. There were a lot of omissions of white people that I think were just as disappointing — I’m sure [Spotlight's] Michael Keaton is bummed, you know?” Penelope continued. 

'A lot of omissions of white people that I think were just as disappointing'? I believe you missed the larger point, Ms. Miller.And then there was this from Jeremy Larner:

“I cannot prove the Academy or anyone else is not racist ... I have voted for many people of color for awards... I happen to think Straight Outta Compton is not a great film for reasons of structure and substance. I can imagine it is a powerful affirmation for those who share the assumptions of its music and see it as fans. But to me, a good film has to show a lot more than this one does.”

I would probably say something similar about 'Boyhood', but that may just be me ... following the life of a young man from childhood through college? Hmmm.I do have to agree somewhat with both Mr. Larner and Ms. Miller for these comments:

“It is not a time to make enemies among those who would move us further in the direction of fairness, freedom and justice,” Jeremy said. Penelope continued, “There were an incredible number of films in 2015 that were primarily about white people. Talk to the studios about changing that, not the Academy. There’s only so much we can do. I think when you make race the issue, it can divide people even further, and that’s what I worry about.”

If you are interested in the whole article, visit here.However, at some level, race is an issue. As Idris Elba mentioned in a comment (not the one indicated below), featuring non-European actors and directors is a risk. This goes beyond Hollywood and is often evident in the business community and so on.But as both Mr. Larner and Ms. Miller suggest, we need to get to a point to recognize and call out the issue in a way that does not make enemies and change needs to happen at higher and broader levels. In the meantime, pushing back -- by those in and outside the Academy -- will shine a light on a topic that does not need to be identified as a controversy but that needs to be identified as a structural inequality that can and should be addressed.In the meantime and since I am not an actor but play one on this blog, I defer to Rev. Run, who defers to Tyrese about making a clear statement:, check out both David Oyelowo and Idris Elba: Stand up. Speak out. Join together for a better world.

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