#OscarsSoWhite

I didn't even notice, to be honest. I watched as the name were read and did what many of us do; "Oh, so-and-so wasn't nominated. That's a surprise." or "Wow! I didn't expect them to get a nomination." I was hoping to see Michael Keaton get a nomination, which he did, and see Book of Life get an animation nomination, which it didn't. It wasn't until the hours that followed that I was made aware of the issue. No actors of colour were nominated in any of the acting categories.

So big deal right? It's not based on colour, it was based on the best performances this year. If they all just happen to be white actors, what's the problem? You wouldn't want to knock out a really worthy candidate just to splash some colour in there would you?

Fair response? Perhaps, but I think it makes it a little too simple for us just to brush past it. I mean, I personally would have nominated David Oyelowo from Selma for his powerful portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr., but that's just me... people with a vote in these matters clearly disagree (as we often do).

But then you get a video like this...

And then you get an amazing interview with David Oyelowo.

I even took the time to meme out one of the poignaent quotes but I encourage you to really watch the interview and really listen!!

And then other memes get created that help to further make the point.

And we could argue over this a bit. "Well what about Denzel winning for Training Day? That guy was a badass!! He was also the bad guy, a criminal and dies in the end. Why not (and I've argued this since it happened) for Hurricane where he was falsely accused, treated as a criminal all his life and was victorious over a racist system? Not to mention that he was amazing in it. Or for Malcolm. as Oyelowo suggests.

There is systemic racism in our culture that doesn't start with the process of nominations and victors for Oscars though. It runs much deeper than that. We see it in the roles that are available for actors of colour. We see it the projects that studios are willing to fund and that it takes 50 years for a film where Martin Luther King Jr. is at the centre of his own narrative to be made. And when they do get made there is a racism that prevents us from recognizing those performances unless they fit our stereotypes. Before you just sweep away my opinion on this, remember that things are easier to ignore (see my last blog) than to accept. I only ask that you think critically and that starts with saying, "Maybe this is true". 

The other danger in ignoring that systemic racism MAY be true and MAY be a factor is that we then accept the lie of meritocracy, that those who succeed and are acknowledged for their success (wealth, power, prestige, fame) have all earned it based on skill and ability alone and that it has nothing to do with privilege or inequitable opportunity and access. While this might not seem to terrible it comes with a necessary counter-point. If those who succeed and are wealthy DESERVE that wealth. Than what about those who are poor? What about those actors not on that nomination list? Well... they must deserve that too. They didn't earn it, they didn't work hard enough, it has nothing to do with a difference in opportunity and access. Do some poeple bust their butts and break through some of these walls and overcome those obstacles? Sure they do. But that doesn't mean that we don't need to work, on a system level, to create an equity of opportunities. I don't want to have to stop and think about which actors of colour even had prominent roles in film this year. There are no awards for 'the urban friend' or 'the sidekick'.

 
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