Is it entirely the Academy’s fault?

For the second year in a row the four main acting categories failed to include an African American.

Kyle Kohner, Writer

The Academy sustains criticism for the lack of African American nominees in the Oscars the past two years. The blame should be placed on the individuals who put ink to paper when writing screen plays and the individuals behind the cameras of production and direction.


When the Academy announced the Oscar nominations Jan. 14, 2016, many individuals of the African American community, especially those in the film industry, reacted in outrage and rightly so. Shortly after, actress Jada Pinkett Smith announced she will not attend the 88th Academy Awards, her husband and actor Will Smith followed in support. Thus beginning the boycott. Directors Ryan Coogler and actors Don Cheadle, Idris Elba, David Oyelowo and Tyrese also announced they would not be in attendance.

After seeing the films the actors and actress nominations participated in, people can easily support the Academy in their decision for the nominations. “Creed”, “Straight Outta Compton” and “Beasts of No Nation” predominantly featured narratives filled with people of color. I say with caution, those films were not worthy of such nominations. Phenomenal directing and acting performances did comprise these three films and any other year they would receive nominations. Unfortunately, 2015 brought viewers and critics arguably the best year in the film industry since 1994.


Anyone could easily argue Michael B. Johnson of “Creed” should have been nominated for his lead role. However, the performances by Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Fassbender, Bryan Cranston and Eddie Redmayne were career epitomizing. Ultimately, that should not take away from Jordan’s breakout performance. He is young and should garnish more lead roles in the coming years.

Along with the overly stiff competition undermining the boycott, there is a possible bias against the Academy. The individuals boycotting share an interesting commonality between them all — not one of the individuals has won an Oscar. Could this boycott be in detest towards the Academy for not awarding them? There are African American racial injustice activists attending the Oscars: Morgan Freeman, Forest Whitaker, Samuel L. Jackson and Whoopi Goldberg — coincidently all of them are Oscar winners. Thus, the possible bias influenced by no Oscar wins makes the boycott less credible.


Even though the boycott itself may be illegitimate in its motives, the issue behind exclusion of black nominations is real. The blame should not be entirely put on the Academy. Yes, the percentage of white voters in the Academy is 94 percent. However, in a recent statistical study only 22 percent of the Academy are made up of actors and actresses, the remaining 78 percent make up those who direct, produce, write, design, etc.

The lack of black nominations should be taken down to the root of the film industry, as mentioned by Morgan Freeman in an interview with USA Today. The racial injustices are a result of those writing the scripts, rolling the film and comprising the casts. Morgan Freeman endorses the injustices as an internal problem that there needs to be reform in the production process. Not enough African Americans are given the opportunity to write a screenplay, design a set or costumes, or even direct and produce films. The possibility of increasing racial diversity in the production and writing process of movies may lead to an increased number in black nominees and even winners.


After an emergency meeting on Jan. 21, 2016, the Academy announced on their website they wish to fix its voting panel in hopes of more racially diverse nomination. The plan includes a global effort to recruit diverse talent in the film industry and an increased number of positions in the Board of Governors. Applaud the Academy for providing a possible solution to the lack of diversity in the Academy. However, do not disregard the purpose of the Academy awards, which is to recognize excellence in the film industry, not the color of those who produce the talent.

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