The controversy over the Academy Awards


This year’s Oscar nominations have earned the wrath of a number of black artists. The reason: all of the nominees in the four acting categories are white. The Academy announced the nominees on Thursday, Jan. 14 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California. Soon after the announcement, Actress Jada Pinkett-Smith, wife of Fresh Prince star Will Smith and a past Oscar winner herself, made her own announcement.

In a video message posted on Facebook, Pinkett-Smith said she will boycott the awards ceremony scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 28 at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California. Also boycotting the ceremony are her husband Will Smith, Oscar-winning director Spike Lee, and other African American stars.

Some see the decision made by Pinkett-Smith and Lee to go against a company they have graciously accepted awards from in the past as a bit odd. Others even suggest the actress took the action simply because her husband was not nominated for his lead role in the movie Concussion.

There is another dent regarding the boycott. The host for this year’s ceremony, Chris Rock, says he will not take part in the boycott. Instead, he says he will make a short reference regarding the controversy into his opening monologue. As a comedian, it is routine to react to outrage through humor, but this is no joke. On top of the lack of diversity among nominees, the Academy also fails to diversify its hosts. Although this will be Rock’s second hosting appearance at the Oscars, the show hasn’t had a black host in over 10 years.

The controversy was not over the nominations this year, persay. It was the fact that this occurred for the second consecutive year at the award show. Since 2014, there have been a number of undervalued movies, specifically starring black actors and actresses. In 2014 it was Selma, Dear White People, and Beyond the Lights. This past year it was Straight Outta Compton, Creed, and Concussion. Most of those movies were based off of true stories and involved the black main character speaking up against a system that was rooted against them.

Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the first African-American to hold that office and made a statement regarding the controversy.

“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,” Isaacs said.

She also claimed she was “heartbroken and frustrated” at the lack of diversity. Her statement clearly contrasts with the immense power her position holds over choosing the nominees.

Nevertheless, the boycott is very much supported and needed. Social media, specifically Twitter, has been blowing up ever since the nominees were revealed. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite has been a worldwide trending topic ever since the news broke out, which for the most part has ruled in favor of Pinkett-Smith and the boycott.  

It’s not even that fact that some black actors who weren’t nominated should have been; it’s much bigger than that. The problem is a system that continues to rule against minorities. From white police officers getting away with vicious, unjustified murders against unarmed black people, to the Academy getting away with all white nominees for two consecutive years. Yes it is 2016, but that doesn’t mean racism is still not very much alive.