Why Talking About (Lack of) Diversity Among Oscar Nominees is Important
At issue in the news (and on the Morning Show) recently has been the disproportionate number of Academy Award nominees of white ethnicity in comparison to those of any and all other races combined, i.e. #OscarsSoWhite.
Numerous actors, directors and film critics have openly questioned the Academy's lack of racial diversity, including George Clooney, with others, like Jada Pinkett Smith, announcing their boycott of the 2016 ceremony after, for the second year in a row, all of the nominees in the acting categories were white.
While some have questioned whether any non-white actors even deserved nominations this year (ahem Michael B. Jordan, Will Smith, numerous actors in "Compton," Benicio del Toro), others have said non-white actors "need to stop whining" and focus on more important things. Uhh, yeah.
The problem isn't something new to the past two years, and can be traced back, well, to the beginning of time. But I've been told that looking at anything more than 25 years back is unfair and "stupid," because of course there wasn't diversity in the 1940s. We were really terrible to people back then. So fine, we'll focus on the past 25 years.
While I'm not boycotting (as in I'll still watch), I fully support those boycotting and agree that more diversity is needed among nominees. I also know the problem goes beyond the nominations and that if we're ever truly going eradicate discrimination among nominations, we must first tackle the institutional bias against non-whites within the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, as well as among Hollywood's major studios and agencies.
Others, like morning show host Buzz Adams, have said there's no diversity problem at the Oscars, and said if anything, blacks are being over-represented among the winners, and he even wrote up a 500-word essay in support of his theory and about why #Oscarssowhite is such a "non-issue." (You can read that gem HERE.)
Cool straw man argument, bro. Except no one was discussing the number of black winners. Forget the fact that the discussion is about non-whites, and not just blacks like Buzz argued. No one is boycotting over the number of winners. That has never been the issue being discussed. At issue has been and continues to be the number of non-white nominees. Nominees. Here, I did that math for you:
(For reference before we break it down: 63 percent of the U.S. population is white, meaning 37 percent of the population is non-white. Since Buzz's argument focused on the percentage of the U.S. population composted of black Americans only, that number, according to his math is 13.2 percent.)
If we were to first examine my argument that the Oscars have been discriminatory since they began in 1929 by looking at all nominees in the acting categories (best and supporting), only 6.7 percent of the total 1,688 nominations have gone to non-white actors — well under-representing both the 37 percent non-white population and the 13.2 black population. But because I'm told the effects of historic systematic racism is "stupid," let me give the benefit of the doubt and focus on the past 25 years:
If we isolate the past 25 years, only 62 of the nominees in the acting categories— 12.4 percent of the total nominees — were non-white, which is way below the 37 percent non-white population and still below the 13.2 black population.
So when non-white actors discuss the disproportionate number of white nominees, they're not "whining" about a "non-issue," they are publicly discussing an ugly truth (as proven by math!); they are shining light on inequality that shouldn't exist in our society. Sure, the Oscars may not be that important, but if we were to ignore every injustice because somewhere there's a bigger one that exists, we'd live in a pretty sad scary world.
Here's a handy chart of the racial breakdown of nominees over the past 20 years, courtesy of Time.com. (The outlined circles note winners)