The Oscar Controversy

Is the Academy Awards racist? That is one of the big controversial questions being asked in Hollywood right now. You may have seen the hashtag #oscarssowhite being used and trending on Twitter and are confused about how this all got started. Well, last year shortly after the 2015 Oscar nominations were announced the hashtag “#oscarssowhite” began trending. This hashtag was in reference to the fact that only white actors had been nominated for the Awards. People were particularly upset that none of the actors from the movie Selma were nominated, which was a movie based on Martin Luther King’s life.

This hash tag sparked the conversation about diversity in Hollywood; so many assumed this year would be different. On January 14, 2016, when this years nominations were announced the hashtag “#oscarssowhite sparked up again, because, like last year, all of the nominees were white.

Some notable snubs were Will Smith for Concussion and the actors of Straight Out of Compton. Michael B. Jordan, who played Apollo Creed’s son in the newest installment of the Rocky franchise, Creed, also did not get a nomination, while his white co-star Sylvester Stallone did.

After the nominations were announced celebrities like Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee agreed to boycott the award show. Pinkett Smith made a video, which she said,"Today is Martin Luther King's birthday, and I can't help but ask the question: Is it time that people of color recognize how much power, influence, that we have amassed, that we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere?" Shortly after her husband, Will Smith, also officially stated he will not be attending the award show.

It’s hard for many to believe that the award show is actually the problem going on here. The first African American won an Academy Award back in 1939, which was Hattie McDaniel for her role in Gone With the Wind. Just two years ago Lupita Nyong’o won Best Actress for her role in 12 Years a Slave.

Many are saying that it is not the award show that is the problem but that there is just a lack of diversity in general in Hollywood. Some are arguing that while movies with diverse actors do well in the box office, those actors are not picked for films that are considered “Oscar worthy”. Actor George Clooney said, “I would also make the argument, I don't think it's a problem of who you're picking as much as it is: How many options are available to minorities in film, particularly in quality films?" Another actor Michael Caine stated that you have to vote on the actors you think did the best job, not because of their skin color.

If you are unaware of how the Oscar nominees are selected, the members of the Academy of Picture Arts and Sciences vote for whom they believe is worthy of the nomination. One has to be invited to join the Academy and there are more than 6,000 members.

So is it that Hollywood is "too white" or are the Oscar voters purposely voting for white actors? Or is it just a coincidence that the past two years only white people have been nominated?

Whatever your opinion may be, there will definitely be changes to Academy within the next few years. President of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, already announced a series of changes that are designed to diversify the membership. She stated that the Academy is committed to doubling the number of women and minorities by 2020. Also, they plan to limit lifetime voting rights for members. "It's the right thing to do," Isaacs said, "We've been a more than predominantly white institution for a long time. We thought we've got to change this and reflect the community much better."

It appears that the Academy and Hollywood are taking action and are actively trying to improve. Even the creator of the twitter hashtag April Reign, former attorney and managing editor of BroadwayBlack.com, said, "I'm very encouraged." Many people hope to see significant differences within the next few years.