I have heard enough criticism, and I’m tired of having it clutter my news feed. Every year around this time, folks in the black community get on a soap box and – speaking on behalf of the entire black population – disparage the Academy and attempt to portray it as a group of oppressionists. Its sad and ugly, and frankly, it’s getting old.
The nominations for this year’s Oscars were announced last week, and as it happened, the twenty nominees among the four acting categories are all white. For review, the nomination process is as follows: Only actors can nominate actors. Actors submit a list of their top 5 performances in the category (in order, starting with their top pick). First place votes are what are counted. A complicated math problem decides how many first place votes a person needs to receive to be nominated. If there aren’t enough nominees (5) after all the ballots have been looked at and sorted by first place votes, the nominee with the fewest votes gets dropped and those ballots are redistributed based on the second place name on the list. This continues until there are five nominees. It is entirely possible that names #2 through #5 on a given ballot are never even taken into consideration. This year, the actors submitted their lists, and after the smoke cleared, names like Will Smith, Idris Elba, and Michael B. Jordan did not receive enough first place votes.
Jada Pinkett Smith took to the internet to say black people can no longer beg for acknowledgement and respect. She goes on to say “The Academy has the right to acknowledge whomever they choose. To invite whomever they choose. And now I think it is OUR responsibility to make the change. Maybe it is time that we pull back our resources and we put them BACK into our community, into OUR programs, and we make programs for ourselves that acknowledge us in ways that we see fit.”
So, Mrs. Smith, you are insinuating two things. One, that the Academy members specifically chose not to nominate black actors. Second, that black people should no longer support the Academy, and instead band together to what? make a program that acknowledges other black people “in ways that you see fit.” What the hell does that even mean? What it sounds like to me is that you, Mrs. Smith, are just as bigoted as those you claim to be fighting against. Using MLK day as a means to promote YOUR agenda is appalling. Martin Luther King was a good man. He was an important man who did important things for social change. You, on the other hand, are not important. This is merely an awards show. One that has followed the same rules for nomination and voting since the 1930’s – a time when black people could not live a “free” life. And it was then this organization nominated and awarded Hattie McDaniel for her work in Gone With The Wind.
Spike Lee has also come out and said that he will remain home on Oscar night. “40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can’t Act?! WTF!!” Although Mr. Lee did go on to say the problem lied in places greater than the Academy – with executives of film and television studios to be exact – he is obviously still fighting the same illogical fight. He even went so far as to “show no disrespect” to host Chris Rock, producer Reggie Hudlin, and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs – all of whom are black. Simply apologizing to a list of black people does not absolve your reverse racism, sir. Explain to us, Mr. Lee, what “flava” is and how it is better than, say, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. Mr. Lee, as a member of the Directors branch, does not get to nominate actors, but I’d be very curious to see who he picks as his number one choice. Would it have been Will Smith in Concussion? If so, would it have been because he was the most deserving, or because he happens to be black – which seems to be more important. I have a suggestion for Mr. Lee. Perhaps use your extra free time – when all of us are enjoying the awards show – to work on a film that merits an award. Show us, Mr. Activist, the “right way.” Show us all how your films and your actors are more deserving.
Excellence generates praise. Perhaps Will Smith WAS excellent in Concussion. Perhaps Michael B. Jordan and Idris Elba were excellent in their respective films. Perhaps those gentlemen’s names were written on the second line of most ballots. Unfortunately, they didn’t make the list. It is not the responsibility of the Academy to meet an Affirmative Action quota. It is the responsibility of the Academy to allow the actors to nominate their own. So please, save us all your hate speech. If you wish change to happen, make phone calls to members who actually vote. Do not try to sell me on the idea of inequality.
In an even more insulting gesture, President Isaacs issued a press release on MLK Day, in which she says she is “both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion.” She goes on to say “The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.” While no one is going to argue that diversity is bad or doesn’t need to exist, she has done a disservice to the minorities. So perhaps Affirmative Action is in play here. If the Academy invites more black people to membership, their purpose will be to what? nominate more black actors? I find using this holiday to promote THIS agenda to be another disgusting media ploy. I say invite those actors that are deserving of membership. And I say that anyone who votes for anyone else based solely on his or her skin color – whatever color that may be – is not worthy of invitation.