Is Hollywood racist?

Travis LaBrucherie, Distribution Manager

Chris Rock called them “The White People’s Choice Awards” last year. They’re the most prestigious Hollywood award, but are the Academy Awards also unfair?

Over the last two years all nominees for the acting categories were white. That’s 40 nominations going to white actors. But there were some great performances by non-white actors that got snubbed. Think Michael B. Jordan in “Creed” or Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation.” “Straight Outta Compton” was also snubbed from Best Picture. To bring this lack of equality further into the light, #oscarssowhite was trending all over social media for the 2016 Oscars.

Actress Jada Pinkett Smith called for a boycott on the 2016 Oscars from all black actors due to the absence of non-white nominations. Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, and Spike Lee were some of the big names who did not attend in 2016.     

Eleven of the last 14 Oscars were held in February which is Black History Month. It is strange that during this month the Oscars had only three total nominations represent black people in 2015 and 2016. “Selma” had two nominations in 2015: Best Picture and Best Music, Original Song for “Glory” by Common and John Legend. The only 2016 nomination was for Best Music, Original Song for “Earned It” by Daheala, and the Weeknd from “Fifty Shades of Grey.” That is three out of 243 total nominations.

The 89th Academy Awards happened on Sunday Feb. 26, 2017 during a time when race is at the forefront of the culture— especially during Donald Trump’s first month as President.

The Academy Awards were very different compared to the last two years.  Seven out of 20 nominees in acting categories were non-white and four of the nine Best Picture nominees starred non-white actors.

Here are the total nominations that those four movies received: “Hidden Figures” with six, “Fences” with four, “Lion” with six and “Moonlight” with eight. The Best Documentary Feature category has four of five nominations directed by non-white directors.

Some may grumble that non-white nominees this year are just there to make Hollywood not look racist, and that some don’t actually deserve the nominations. That just isn’t true. Every single one of these nominations are absolutely well-deserved.

The discrimination within Hollywood doesn’t begin with the Academy and the nominations. It goes back to before the films were made. The hiring process is the root of inequality. The problem is the industries don’t hire enough non-white actors and filmmakers. Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Indians and Native Americans need more representation in Hollywood.   

Having said that, Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis took home Oscars for their supporting roles and Best Documentary went to “O.J.: Made in America”. “Moonlight” recieved Best Adapted Screenplay and also nabbed Best Picture after a tremendous mistake that annouced “La La Land” at first.

In 2017, the Academy has taken a step in the right direction for equality  but there is still a way to go.