For the second year in a row, only white actors were nominated for the Academy Awards, and this year, the Academy is not getting away with it. It started with Jada Pinkett Smith and her video of her where she told the world that she will not be attending the Oscars because the Academy fails to acknowledge diversity. Film-maker Spike Lee announced on Instagram, with a picture of young Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., that he also will not be attending the Oscars because no African American were nominated, saying “We Cannot Support It.” The issue has received lots of attention, but it certainly is not the first time people are calling out the Academy for its lack of support towards promoting casts and crews of color.
One of the most controversial moments in the Academy’s history was when Native American actress and civil rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather accepted Marlon Brando’s award on his behalf for The Godfather in order to bring attention to the poor treatment of Native American’s in the Hollywood film industry. She had to cut her speech short because the producer threatened to have her removed or arrested if she went on to talk for more than sixty seconds. People criticized the Academy when David Oyelowo was not even nominated for his acclaimed portrayal of Rev. Martin L. King Jr. in 2014’s Selma. “This institution doesn’t reflect its president, and it doesn’t reflect this room. I am an Academy member and it doesn’t reflect me, and it doesn’t reflect this nation,” said Oyelowo. To quote Neil Patrick Harris, who hosted the Academy Awards last year, “Today we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest- sorry- brightest.”
The issue is not just the lack of African American representation. People magazine notes how women have had an “uphill battle” as well. There is a lack of female representation, which makes it hard for woman to thrive as filmmakers.
While many people have expressed their thoughts on how the Academy should do a better job of representing diversity, President Barack Obama puts it the best by saying, "I think when everybody’s story is told, then that makes for better art…It makes for better entertainment. It makes everybody feel part of one American family. So I think, as a whole, the industry should do what every other industry should do, which is to look for talent, provide opportunity to everybody.”
The issue of diversity has gone on for so long, it is not crazy for some people to think that hope is lost, but on the contrary, it is not. Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs released a statement earlier saying she is “both heart-broken and frustrated” about the lack of diversity among this year’s nominees, and they are taking drastic steps to make changes in order to promote color and diversity.