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Celebrities Call for a Boycott of the Whitewashed Oscars, the Academy Responds


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A photo posted by The Academy (@theacademy) on

The 2016 Oscars lineup is startling in its lack of diversity. All twenty nominated actors are white for the second year in a row. Will Smith wasn’t nominated for his role in Concussion, Idris Elba was passed over for Beasts of No Nation, Benicio Del Toro’s Sicario performance went unnoticed, Straight Outta Compton was overlooked for best picture and Creed only garnered a nomination for Sylvester Stallone.

In response, Jada Pinkett-Smith announced she’d be boycotting the show, telling fans in a Facebook video: “Begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power. And we are a dignified people and we are powerful.” She also addressed the fact that the Oscars chose a black host this year, comedian Chris Rock: “At the Oscars, people of color are always welcomed to give out awards, even entertain, but we are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments. Should people of color refrain from participating all together?” she asked in a tweet.

Actor David Oyelowo said that “the Academy has a problem” that “needs to be solved.” Speaking at a Channel 4 event, Idris Elba told the crowd “I knew I wasn’t going to land a lead role [nomination]. I knew there wasn’t enough imagination in the industry for me to be seen as a lead.” Acclaimed director Spike Lee echoed their sentiments. “How is it possible for the second consecutive year that all 20 contenders under the actor category are white?” he asked on Instagram. He concluded that he just “cannot support” the “lily white” awards show, noting the irony that his post date fell on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.


#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)

A photo posted by Spike Lee (@officialspikelee) on

That irony wasn’t lost on Twitter users. Both #MLK and #OscarsSoWhite trended for most of the day as people slammed the majority-white nominations. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs addressed the outrage yesterday, saying she was “heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion.” In a statement, she said, “This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. 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.”

That’s one solution. Spike Lee believes change needs to happen among Hollywood execs. “As I see it, the Academy Awards is not where the ‘real’ battle is,” he said. “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. People, the truth is we ain’t in those rooms and until minorities are, the Oscar nominees will remain lily white.”

There was a similar call for a boycott in 2015 when the 20 actor nominees and the host (Neil Patrick Harris) were all white. The Oscars garnered its lowest ratings in six years, down 16 percent from 2014. If people want to see diversity at the Oscars, it’s best to protest with their remotes.

[via Vogue UK]