Oscars 2016: How Will We Reverse The ‘Systematic Failures’ In Film Diversity?

First and foremost, congratulations to all of last night’s Oscars winners!  I thought Chris Rock killed it!  He was sharp, unapologetic and brutally honest.  The theme of the show was tailor-made for him.  I think the biggest question of the Oscars was how Chris Rock and affiliated movie stars would handle the issue of diversity and the infamous #OscarsSoWhite controversy.  The second most preeminent question was whether or not Leonardo DiCaprio would win that ever-elusive first Oscar, in which he finally won best actor for his work in The Revenant, during last night’s 88th Academy Awards.

Now that the star-studded event has come and gone, one of the things that stood out to me was a statement made by Scandal star, Kerry Washington, on why she decided to attend the Oscars–amid diversity protests:

Photo Credit:  Jason Merritt, Getty Images

“A lot of people have asked me why I’m here tonight, and the thing I’m thinking about is, if you look at the history of movements, the history of change, a lot of the voices are needed at the table,” Washington told Good Morning America’s anchor, Robin Roberts on the red carpet.  “I really respect and actually admire some of the people who are not here tonight, I really get it, but for me, I felt like my voice –– in my heart –– my voice is best used at the table.”  “As a new member of the Academy –– I joined the Academy about three years ago –– I really want to be part of the conversation to make sure there’s institution change,” she continued, “so that we never have a year like this again, so that we can be as inclusive as possible.”

I completely understand the point that Washington was making, but at the same time, African-American actors and actresses shouldn’t believe that by winning an Oscar award, it would be the pinnacle of their careers.  It’s no secret that Hollywood is lacking in recognizing tremendously, talented minorities for their their film attributes; however–as creatives, we have to be encouraged and continue to focus on honing our crafts. To me, the greatest validation you can ever receive is the love and support from your family friends and real fans.  We have the power of entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation at our disposals.  Together–if we put our hearts, minds and might together and make a concentrated effort to overcome the status quo of Hollywood, we can bring about a momentous change in mainstream media.

Photo Credit:  Zack Snyder, Warner Bros.

Another glaring problem in Hollywood is that there aren’t enough movies with diverse casts that are getting financed and created.  Some people think that the diversity problem is a result of the Academy members choosing to vote for something based on racial merit–whether they feel it’s a white movie or a black movie.  I simply believe that we have to start taking ourselves much more seriously.  Until we start collaborating and financing movies like Batman v Superman, where African-Americans are cast as main characters in these films–along with highly talented black directors such as Ryan Coogler or Ava Duvernay at the helm, the Oscars–along with Hollywood, will continue to have diversity issues.

A significant amount of pressure must be placed upon movie studios and the Academy of Motion picture Arts and Sciences to make a greater effort in bringing more minorities into the fray.  Casting minority actors and actresses in roles outside of black-themed films needs better improvement–and I’m not just talking a stereotypical role of the ‘funny black man,’ or the ‘angry black women.’  Simply put… more prominent roles for minorities needs to be at forefront of major film projects.  You have to ask yourself… would films like ‘Spotlight’ or ‘The Revenant’ have been less creative if the characters were interracial?  If that’s the case, then you know we still have plenty of work left to do.  We can’t just make a ruckus once year, it has to be a year-round effort to alter the landscape in Hollywood.

What work by black actors and filmmakers did you feel was egregiously overlooked by the Academy this year?  Do you think boycotting the Oscars was the best approach in dealing with the event’s lack of diversity?  I hope to read some of your comments!

Join me in my effort to spread positive messages and insight with my empowering narratives. Share this empowering narrative on your social network of choice and ask others to do the same. Thanks for reading!


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