Thursday, January 21, 2016

#OscarsSoWhite: Stacy Dash & Donald Trump Get In on the Act

It's been one week since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the nominees for the 88th annual Academy Awards. It's been one week since it was revealed no people of color, African-American or otherwise, were nominated in any of the onscreen categories. The omission, for the second year in a row, prompted the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram and other places across the web #OscarsSoWhite. Major media outlets even jabbed the Academy for the gross oversight with morning news coverage and above the fold, front page, newspaper exposes.

One week later the hub-bub over the lack of diversity at the Academy Awards has not died down. In fact it's reached a fever pitch if I may be so cliche. That's because Jada Pinkett-Smith announced on Monday, MLK Day, that she was boycotting the Oscars. She doesn't even plan to watch to keep her dignity in tact. She urges other African-American actors, actresses, writers, directors etc. to let the Academy do them and let us do us. Spike Lee, lover of controversy and protest, jumped on the boycott and says he's not going to the Oscars. He's going to see his beloved Knicks play at the Garden.

Again the media pounced including the ever-conservative FOX News. They carted out one of their token commentators, who just happens to be an African-American actress to drop some knowledge on their red leaning watchers.

I give you Stacy Dash:

If you watched the entire segment then I'm sure you may be ready to trade Stacy Dash in Dave Chappell's Racial Draft because of the stupidity, or tom foolery as BET responded, that came out of her mouth.  First of all BET is owned by Viacom so good luck getting rid of the network. Secondly, she's been in several straight to cable movies that have aired on BET over the years. Thirdly, white entertainers are nominated and do occasionally win BET Awards like 2015's Best New Artist, British Soul Singer Sam Smith. (We won't mention Iggy Azalea's nod for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist). Fourthly, the NAACP Image Awards were created in 1967 in direct response to the lack of diversity in Hollywood, at the Academy Awards specifically. Let's not forget the 52 years that separate the only Black women to win an Academy Award for Best Actress, Hattie McDaniel in 1940 for Gone With the Wind, and Halle Berry in 2002 for Monster's Ball.

But common sense ain't common, and any publicity is good publicity if you're running for President.

I give you Donald Trump:

The GOP frontrunner who realized at the end of his comment that he need not alienate a whole segment of people he wishes to govern didn't really clean up his comments by saying "yeah it needs to be more diverse but this year wasn't their year." Dr. Ben Carson also gave a statement to The Hollywood Reporter for the Black Presidential candidate opinion to which he says he's not concerned about the Oscars.

"I've said often that diversity is one of America's greatest strengths. Americans from all walks of life have riveting and important stories to tell, and Hollywood could do a better job of honoring all of these stories, regardless of who tells them or the ideology they represent.
"But at the end of the day, the American people have far more important concerns than a few Hollywood elites handing themselves awards. If we paid as much attention to growing the economy as we do to the extravagant, more than $30 million Oscar party the glitterati throw for themselves, we might have fewer families wondering how they're going to make ends meet.
"So I'm not terribly concerned about Hollywood's image. I'm worried about creating a more vibrant America to provide a better future for our children and grandchildren."

With all the controversy some members of the Academy refused to let sleeping racist dogs lies and responded to the controversy by saying they're not racist and to deem the entire body as such is racist.

Penelope Miller who is a member of the Academy said "I voted for a number of black performers, and I was sorry they weren't nominated." She went on to mourn the white actors who also weren't nominated either, "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?"

Apparently inclusion and diversity matter even when defending the lack of inclusion and diversity in the very body, group, thing, you're claiming is not inherently racist. Clearly, Ms. Miller, Donald Trump, and The Academy as a whole have not heard of institutional racism. When 93 percent of the 6,200 member voting body is white and 74 percent of that same body are men it makes it quite hard to argue that at the very least there isn't a racial slant in the way the nominees are chosen and the awards handed down. Just because the President of the Academy is Black doesn't mean that the institutional racism within the Academy does not exist, whether its members want to acknowledge it or not. That would be like saying we have a Black President racism in America is over.

So what do Black people, who so desperately want inclusion and representation in media, do to even the score?

Jada says boycott, the original Aunt Viv says #girlbye.

Besides the shade of it all, they both have valid points.

African-Americans in prominent positions in Hollywood should use their clout to bring attention to the fact that they are not being included in the awards that celebrate the industry that they are apart of, but they can't completely ignore the industry for validation if they don't want to commit career suicide. Doing our own this is great with the BET Awards and the NAACP Image Awards but what African-American actress or actor, or singer, or any entertainer holds those awards from their own people in higher esteem than their Grammy or Oscar?

Monique does, but who else?

Diversity in Hollywood, and media in general matters, just like Black Lives Matter, just like I want to say Every Life Matters. But until institutional racism is not only recognized and repaird the BET Awards, the Image Awards etc will need to continue to exist as spaces of affirmation for African-American artists as much as The Grammys and the Oscars will continue to exist as spaces of affirmation for all artists. Black people only create their own, and do their own thing when they are left with no other options because #BlackExcellence and #BlackGirlMagic are not acknowledged, or only acknowledged when a white body does it first.

Asking for inclusion is not begging for validation or dignity. We are already valid because we are here. We already matter because we have survived the history of our ancestors, and we are already dignified because of the legacy we leave our descendents. Asking for inclusion, and asking to be recognized as humans, as people, as artists, actors and actresses, and as equals is about finally just being the same, and being the best instead of having our careers marked with the asterisk of the first. It is time to stop counting how many accomplishments white society allows us to achieve within the construct of their institutional confines and just about achieving and excelling because we can, we have, and will continue to do so, the Academy be damned.


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