|Sal's Famous Pizzeria burns in writer-director Spike Lee's masterpiece Do the Right Thing.|
Ordinarily, I would not jump into the fray on an issue such as this. People a lot smarter than I and better attuned to the discussion have written about the now infamous #OscarsSoWhite hashtag and its many implications. It just seems for an issue this important, though, that more discussion is always better than less. The more we talk about race, identity, diversity, and equality, the better we can understand these topics and address problems, while the people who shut their eyes and cover their ears will be left behind.
Most of you know the facts: In the last two years, not one black, Asian, or Hispanic actor has been nominated for an Academy Award. That covers 40 nominations, and all of them have gone to white actors. I would argue history shows the Best Director category is even worse for black filmmakers. The last three Best Director winners have been either Hispanic (Alfonso Caurón for Gravity and Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman) or Asian (Ang Lee for Life of Pi), which equals the number of black directors ever nominated for an Oscar for directing.
Now, we can sit and discuss merit all day – nominations are subjective; there are only five slots per category; etc., etc. – but that misses the point. Spike Lee, a recent honorary Oscar winner who somehow has never been nominated for Best Director, shined a light on the real issue this week in announcing his boycott of this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. He said:
“As I See It, The Academy Awards Is Not Where The ‘Real’ Battle Is. It's In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To ‘Turnaround’ Or Scrap Heap. This Is What's Important. The Gate Keepers. Those With ‘The Green Light’ Vote. As The Great Actor Leslie Odom Jr. Sings And Dances In The Game Changing Broadway Musical HAMILTON, ‘I WANNA BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS’. People, The Truth Is We Ain't In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White.”
#OscarsSoWhite... Again. I Would Like To Thank President Cheryl Boone Isaacs And The Board Of Governors Of The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences For Awarding Me an Honorary Oscar This Past November. I Am Most Appreciative. However My Wife, Mrs. Tonya Lewis Lee And I Will Not Be Attending The Oscar Ceremony This Coming February. We Cannot Support It And Mean No Disrespect To My Friends, Host Chris Rock and Producer Reggie Hudlin, President Isaacs And The Academy. But, How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let's Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can't Act?! WTF!! It's No Coincidence I'm Writing This As We Celebrate The 30th Anniversary Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday. Dr. King Said "There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It's Right". For Too Many Years When The Oscars Nominations Are Revealed, My Office Phone Rings Off The Hook With The Media Asking Me My Opinion About The Lack Of African-Americans And This Year Was No Different. For Once, (Maybe) I Would Like The Media To Ask All The White Nominees And Studio Heads How They Feel About Another All White Ballot. If Someone Has Addressed This And I Missed It Then I Stand Mistaken. As I See It, The Academy Awards Is Not Where The "Real" Battle Is. It's In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To "Turnaround" Or Scrap Heap. This Is What's Important. The Gate Keepers. Those With "The Green Light" Vote. As The Great Actor Leslie Odom Jr. Sings And Dances In The Game Changing Broadway Musical HAMILTON, "I WANNA BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS". People, The Truth Is We Ain't In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White. (Cont'd)