Why we shouldn’t thank the Academy just yet


Maggie Curran, Opinion Editor

In the spirit of Black History Month, the Academy Awards will be hosted at the end of the month with not a single actor or actress of color nominated for the second year in a row. It’s no secret that the Oscars have long been whitewashed, and finally, after public outrage and vows from various actors to boycott the awards, the Academy has announced major demographic changes for its members. However, even with the Academy’s earnest efforts to be more progressive, the film industry is still a long way from proper representation.

To fix a problem, you have to find the root cause of it. In this case, the Oscars, along with various other awards shows, are a part of a problem that goes much deeper than a lack of nominations for minority actors. The real issue lies in the first stages of pre-production, when films are written for white actors, cast with white actors, and eventually win awards with white actors. Was it a good idea for the Academy to address the lack of diversity among its members? Of course. But that was never the issue to begin with.

Viola Davis said it best during her acceptance speech at the Emmys when being named Best Actress in a Drama Series: “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” In order for more minority actors to get the recognition they deserve, they need to be hired for roles that will attract attention. There are plenty of actors of color with enough talent, but more often than not they are pushed to the side for white actors instead.

This isn’t to say that the white actors who have been nominated for an Oscar aren’t deserving of their nominations; on the contrary, they are completely deserving because of the talent they displayed in the roles they were graciously offered, the roles that minority actors may have been given if only they had a different skin color. It is not the fault of the talented white actors for receiving better roles, but it is the fault of the casting directors, producers, and everyone else involved in the systematic underrepresentation of minorities in filmmaking.

It’s easier to say that everything will be fixed now. It’s easier to hear of the changes being made in the Academy and assume the problem is resolved. It’s easier to ignore the root cause, because convincing an entire industry to be less racist is much more difficult of an endeavor. However, it is a necessary undertaking in order to reach true equality and give all actors a chance at the roles and recognition they truly deserve.

The film industry has come so far, and small steps are already being taken every day to attest to that. If the public had as much outcry over the industry as a whole as there was over this year’s Academy Awards, imagine how quickly production companies would start to hire deserving minority actors. In a society where representation is everything, the big screen is the best place to start.