THE CLASH: Are the Oscars too white?


The Oscars are too white. That is not a debate, it is a fact. There is not a single performance nomination for people of color, despite  the strong performances from largely African American casts. Movies like “Straight Out of Compton” and “Concussion” got largely snubbed, despite receiving abundant critical acclaim. The only non-white nomination for the most notable awards is in best director, held by Mexican director Alejandro G. Iñárritu for “The Revenant.” In response to feeling ignored, many notable artists like Spike Lee and Will Smith are boycotting the Oscars.

I am not here to argue that any of the nominations were unworthy. All of the performers and filmmakers on the nomination list got there through their own hard work and achievement. What I am here to argue is that there a disproportionate of nomination worthy performances that have been snubbed by people of color.

It is not only the breakout stars of the season like actor Jason Mitchel of “Straight Out of Compton” and “Creed” director Ryan Coogler who got ignored. “Do the Right Thing “ (1990) director Spike Lee was passed over again for his new film “Chiraq.” Lee was finally given an honorary Academy Award in November of 2015, before the nominations for this year came out. Even before this controversy, Lee used his acceptance speech for that award as an excuse to bash the lack of diversity in Hollywood. “Everybody in here probably voted for Obama but when I go to offices, I see no black folks except for the brother man at the security who checks my name off the list as I go into the studio,” Lee said.

Honestly though, the snubbing of people of color in the Oscars is just a symptom of the real cancer plaguing Hollywood and the academy. Part of the true problem stems from a deeper stagnation and unintentional bias within the academy. According to the LA Times, 94 percent of Oscars voters are white, and 77 percent are male. If that is not crazy enough, only 14 percent of the academy members are below the age of 50. That is right, the group of people who were supposed to decide whether or not “Straight Out of Compton” was an Oscar worthy film were a bunch of old white men.

Before anyone gets defensive, I am not calling them racist or bigoted. I doubt any of them harbor ill-will towards people of color. However, put any 60-year-old white man in a room and ask him which movie he would rather watch, a biopic about hip-hop culture or a film about wall street investors not losing money in the stock market crash, they’ll pick “The Big Short” every time.

The insanity about this is that it is an easily fixable problem. Why not start drafting a new generation of academy voters? Adding a younger, diverse group of critical minds to the ranks of the academy would make sure opinions for different points of view are heard.


The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences voting members are mostly made up of white men in their 60’s. Though the awards catagories seem unbalanced, you have to keep in mind that this is a much more complex issue because of what goes on  behind the scenes.

This is a corrupted system that Hollywood has been working to fix by limiting the Academy’s membership. For example, members of the Academy have to keep active until they are in their 70’s. Only after achieving that, are they granted lifetime membership, instead of it being given to them like it always has been.

This change will help the academy in the future because if they keep the same tastes, the uneveness of this year will continue. The preisdent of the academy is African – American herself, so there has been changes going on already.

These changes happen slowly and even though everyone expects change to happen overnight, it does not happen that way. The preisdent has opened up membership so the number of women and people of color should double the current members right now by 2020. 2020 is far away and these changes will help the academy keep up with the times.

Also, current members who have not been active in the past 10 years will have their membership taken away and it will  be given to new members.

Discrimination is not new. In the film   industry, women have faced sexism in all the time for being too old, to fat, and for being too tall. Woman are also paid less than their male co-stars for the doing the same amount of work.

If you are going to boycott an awards show for lack of diversity, you have to keep in mind that 12 African-Americans actors and actress have won Oscars, and some have been nominated twice. 44 African-Americans have been nominated for acting  before as well, while no openly gay male has been nominated for an Oscar. Many can see that is as discrimination, but no one ever starts a hashtag on Twitter, or called for a boycott.

If these issues bother you so much, keep having this conversation everyday not just once a year. Change will happen if we keep talking about all the issues in the film industry.

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