#OscarsSoWhite is still going strong


Photo by Peter Lewicki on Unsplash

Intisar Mohammed, Contributor

The 92nd Oscars aired on ABC February 9, and it is still facing criticism for the same problem it has had for decades: a lack of diversity.

Shortly after the nominations came out, April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite, wrote a Variety column to discuss the fact that well over half of the Academy is constructed of white males.  She cites this as the major reason the Academy nominations are typically so disappointing to Black creators. 

In 2016, actress Jada Pinkett Smith made a video calling out the Academy’s lack of diversity.

“Begging for acknowledgment or even asking, diminishes dignity…and power…and we are a dignified people,” said Pinkett Smith. 

Director and actor Spike Lee shared similar sentiments on Instagram.

We cannot support it and [I] mean no disrespect … But, how is it possible for the second consecutive year all 20 contenders under the acting category are white?” said Lee. “And let’s not even get into the other branches….Forty white actors in two years and no flava at all. We can’t act?!”

Year after year, Black and brown actors and movies have been dismissed and looked over. 

Movies with a predominantly Black cast, or that were made by Black directors have been incredibly successful but have not been given their due recognition.

During the Oscars boycott in 2016, movies such as Creed and Straight Out of Compton were highly successful, yet overlooked.

Creed grossed $173.6 million. Straight Out of Compton grossed $161.2 million. Both movies did better than The Big Short, which was also nominated that year.

It was very telling that not only are Black movies looked over but also, Black actors.

Concussion actor Will Smith, has been acting since the early ’90s but yet to receive a single Oscar after starring in a broad catalogue of successful films from drama to rom-com, to comedy to action. 

Spike Lee, a renowned director, and actor since the ’80s has been nominated for the award five times, but has only one Oscar. He received an Oscar during the 91st Oscars in 2019 for BlackKKKlansman. 

This year, Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver, were the only Black winners for Hair Love, which won the Best Animated Short Film Award. Cherry and Toliver were one of the five Black people nominated this year.

Over the years, fewer and fewer black people have been nominated.

“Presented without comment: In 2017: 18 Black nominees In 2018: 13 Black nominees In 2019: 15 Black nominees In 2020: 5 Black noms #OscarsSoWhite #Oscars,” tweeted Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change.

Despite the fact that Cherry and Toliver’s win is phenomenal, there seems to be a pattern. Movies that have a predominantly Black cast or cover topics in the Black community are not well received by white audiences.

This film was for you…You know, all throughout the years, you know, there hasn’t been characters in…animation that look like you. This film was made for you to see yourself,” said Cherry.

That is the importance of films with positive, Black stories. Audiences should be able to see themselves on screen. 

Many Black Oscar winners in the past have received accolades for movies that portrayed the African-American struggle while movies that were more encouraging were often overlooked.

For example, Hattie McDaniel was the first-ever Black person to win an Oscar. She played the role of a mammy in Gone with the Wind.

A mammy is a Black nursemaid or nanny in charge of raising white children and were expected to be subservient to their white masters.

When McDaniel went to accept her award, she had to receive permission from white Gone with the Wind producer, David O. Selznick.

Later during the 91st Oscars, Green Book received five nominations and won three. Green Book is a movie about a Black pianist, Dr. Don Shirley, who is accompanied by his white bouncer and driver, Tony Lip.

The movie was criticized because of its clear depiction of a white savior complex.

The Shirley Family condemned the movie saying, “This movie, ‘The Green Book’ is NOT about MY brother, but about money, white privilege, assumption, and Tony Lip!

Other celebrities, such as Amanda Seales, also shared opinions saying, “Wondering why [those who watched the movie] felt good watching another ‘If it wasn’t for that white person’ film about a mediocre, white racist repeatedly condescending to his Black employer…”

Parasite, a South Korean film, was the first non-English film to win an Oscar. The movie won in four out of the six categories in which it was nominated.

Many people took to social media to not only share their joy for the win but to elaborate on what it meant for South Koreans.

The more Asians succeed on the international stage, I think Asian Americans do feel like that will then open up more opportunities for Asian-American actors in Hollywood,” said, Nancy Wang Yuen, a sociologist and author of Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism

After such a major accomplishment for this community, a YouTuber posted a video criticizing Parasite‘s success. 

Robert Storms, known for his YouTube presence, went viral after his racist spiel on Parasite.

“If you win Best Foreign Film, you should immediately be invalid for Best Picture,” said Storm.

He then went on to say that Parasite should have won Best Foreign Film and not Best Picture. Many interpreted that to mean western opinions on entertainment should be the determining factor of the success of the said film. 

It is important for films with a positive, minority focus to be recognized because there is an abundance of quality films that have continuously been robbed of their accolades and it is important for the next generation of minority filmmakers and actors to be able to see that this is an achievable goal.