The 2016 Academy Award nominations rolled out Thursday morning and highlighted a roster of acting categories made up entirely of white performers.
The lack of diversity among Oscar nods has, sadly, become tradition and things don’t seem to be getting any better. In fact, they’re getting worse.
Following in last year’s footsteps, not a single actor of color is up for an award this year. The only films featuring a cast with people of color that are nominated this year are “Straight Outta Compton” for Best Screenplay, “What Happened, Miss Simone” for Best Documentary and “Creed” for Best Supporting Actor — but for these films, only their white contributors were recognized. “The Revenant,” whose director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, is Mexican is also nominated. It bypassed actors like Will Smith, for “Concussion,” Idris Elba in “Beasts Of No Nation,” Samuel L. Jackson in “The Hateful Eight,” and Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler for “Creed,” all of whom have been heavily praised for their performances this year.
Widespread fury erupted last year by people everywhere who flooded social media with #OscarsSoWhite to voice their frustration with the Academy for recognizing so few actors of color. That hashtag, which was created by twitter user @ReignOfApril, has now resurfaced, bubbling up similar expressions of disappointment by the dismal state of diversity among this year’s nods.
— Mark S. Luckie (@marksluckie) January 14, 2016
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) January 14, 2016
Meanwhile, others didn’t find the lack of progress that surprising, at all.
#OscarsSoWhite, but we already knew that, right?
— The Dream Defenders (@Dreamdefenders) January 14, 2016
The discussion around the lack of representation in film has become a big issue particularly in the last year. President of the Academy Cherryl Boone-Isaacs, a black woman, said she is well-aware of the poor state of diversity in film and that diversifying the field is important.
“The whole discussion about diversity is a great discussion, because now it’s at the top of everybody’s mind, not just the academy’s,” Isaacs said last year during an Academy reception.
And while widespread change is understandably slow to come, there has been no progress in the last year.
However, Isaacs is far from the only person to be held accountable for the lack of representation and recognition of actors of color. Hollywood executives are are mostly white and mostly male and they have failed to prioritize color-conscious casting in their films.
UClA’s 2015 Hollywood Diversity report highlights that the problem starts at the top, which is dominated by white, male gatekeepers who run the industry’s top three talent agencies and major studios. In 2013, 94 percent of CEOs and/or chairs and 92 percent of senior management in the film industry were white, according to the report.
If these executives don’t start making an active effort to recruit and hire people of color, Hollywood will remain saturated with white performers in films. And that’s not only terrible because it robs the opportunity from talented and deserving actors of color, but because it is a poor representation of the diverse audiences who view them.
Meanwhile, Chris Rock will be the host of this year’s Academy Awards when it airs on Sunday Feb. 28. Rock, who has been vocal about diversity (and the lack of it) in Hollywood, wrote a viral op-ed in The Hollywood Reporter last year about this very same issue.
“It’s a white industry,” he wrote. “Just as the NBA is a black industry. I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing. It just is.”
And while Rock was spot-on about many of his observations, I disagree with one: it IS a bad thing.