Racism at the Oscars has its roots in Hollywood

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I tuned into at least 35 minutes of the nearly-four hour runtime of the Oscars this Sunday. I didn’t watch to see the latest fashion trends or because I was drawn in by the spectacle of Hollywood’s best and brightest. Instead, it got me thinking about just how racist Hollywood really is, despite how socially progressive they claim to be.

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Recently, California congressman Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-San Fernando Valley) scolded Hollywood and specifically the Oscar selection committee for a lack of diversity among recent Oscar nominees. If Cardenas had been referring to the Oscar statues themselves he would have a legitimate argument — after all, they are all clearly male with golden skin. However, he directed most of his ire towards the Oscar selection committee for their choice of nominees this year. For the most part, these choices left the movie “Selma” and in particular its lead actor David Oyelowo out in the cold. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that the selection committee, which is made up of members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), is 94 percent white, two percent African American and less than two percent Latino. Additionally, nearly 77 percent of AMPAS members are male.

So, in a sense, Cardenas has a point that the selection committee has a diversity problem. That said, he is still hurling his accusations in the wrong direction. The selection committee can only choose from whatever is in the available pool, and this year there weren’t many great films that had much ethnic diversity in the ranks. For example, the only credible film this year with a cast featuring black actors who could be reasonably considered was “Selma.” Even though Oyelowo is a brilliant actor, his role as Martin Luther King simply didn’t have the depth or punch of the roles played by Michael Keaton or Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne.

The AMPAS selection committee can hardly be blamed for nominating other performances and films over the only real ethnically diverse choice they had in “Selma.” Quite frankly Cardenas should be directing his accusations of a lack of diversity directly at Hollywood studios and their producers, because that is the source of the problem. Hollywood chooses to put out a deluge of films that are dominated with white themes and actors, and the end result is that the majority of those films will get nominations over a token ethnically diverse film like “Selma.”

Despite all their claims and attempts to be considered socially progressive, Hollywood has fallen flat on its face when it comes to actually producing ethnically diverse films and roles for actors. One example of this is the fact that the ever-changing role of James Bond has always gone to a white actor, and only now are we hearing whispers that a black actor, Idris Elba, may finally be considered to replace Daniel Craig as 007. What has taken Hollywood so long to get to the point where a black actor would be considered for a role that doesn’t necessarily call for a white actor? And why hasn’t Denzel Washington, with the exception of his recent role in the movie “Flight,” had any roles in which he has a romantic relationship with a white actress? The answer to both questions is that Hollywood is more concerned about profits than being socially progressive — and the responsibility of having more diversity in films falls directly on studio executives.

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