United States: Oscars racism reflects systemic discrimination

Friday, March 4, 2016

Various actors called for a boycott of the 2016 Oscars ahead of the awards night held on February 28, due to the lack of Black nominees for the second year in a row. Many spoke out about Hollywood's racism, with no non-white nominees in major categories for the second year running, via the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite

Although rejecting calls to join the boycott, Oscars host and African-American comic Chris Rock joked on stage about the lack of diversity, declaring that “Hollywood is sorority racist”.

Oscar-worthy films with Black casts, such as Concussion, Creed and Straight Outta Compton only received nominations for white writers and a white co-star.

Instead of attending the ceremony, Black stars such as Creed director Ryan Coogler and Selma director Ava DuVernay, attended a #JusticeForFlint fundraiser on the same night. The night was in support of residents of the largely Black population of Flint, Michigan, where authorities have overseen the poisoning of the water supply.

Academy Award-nominated actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith also announced they would not attend the Oscars in protest.

A Milwaukee school with a 99% Black population held an “alternative Academy Awards” to honour Black excellence in the arts. The awards went to Black actors, musicians and cultural icons snubbed by the Oscars. A student, dressed in her “red carpet best,” told local radio that Black actors are only recognized when they play a “derogatory character.”

Before the night, Reverend Al Sharpton announced protests in several US cities and a “tune-out” of the awards ceremony to pressure advertisers on diversity. His National Action Network staged similar protests last year, when #OscarsSoWhite first trended on social media.

Various actors emphasised that it was not just the Oscars that were the problem. It is the entire US system that is plagued with racism.

Award-winning Black actor Viola Davis said: “The problem is not with the Oscars. The problem is with the Hollywood movie-making system.

“How many Black films are being produced every year? How are they being distributed? The films that are being made, are the big-time producers thinking outside of the box in terms of how to cast the role?

“Can you cast a Black woman in that role? Can you cast a Black man in that role?”

She criticised the fact that female Black actors make less the female white actors, but said: “The problem isn't even our pay … You can change the Academy, but if there are no Black films being produced, what is there to vote for?”

Actor Mark Ruffalo said: “It isn't just the Academy Awards. The entire American system is rife with the kind of white-privilege racism that goes into our justice system.”

Ruffalo eventually decided to attend the Oscars “in support of the victims of clergy sexual abuse and good journalism” that were highlighted in Spotlight, in which he starred.

But the actor praised the boycott, saying: “I hope the Oscar Ban movement opens the way for my peers to open their hearts to the #BlackLivesMatter movement as well.”

[Compiled from TeleSUR English.]

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