Racial discrimination undercuts Academy Awards’ value

Bella McWhorter

This year’s Academy Awards proved an unfortunate event for our history books and a stain on our society’s racial achievements, as not one African American was nominated for any of the four acting categories in the Oscars.

This may not seem to be a problem, as it is assumed the best candidates are nominated for each award. But if one looks deeper into the matter, it becomes evident that the work of civil rights activists in the 20th century is far from complete, despite what we might think.

The activists who we honor this month only set a foundation for the work that must be achieved; the post-racial myth is all too real.

Eight films were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar nomination. Among the eight is the film “Selma,” centered around Martin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights for all citizens.

Despite the film’s African American lead actor and director being nominated for the Golden Globes, there was no Oscar nomination or acknowledgement for the mainly African American cast, despite the film’s critical acclaim. Seeing as those nominated for best film must include a superb cast of talented actors, actresses, directors, and producers, it seems odd that the cast only received one award for its overall film quality.

So why is it that not one person from the film Selma was nominated for an award? The answer may lie in the fact that discrimination is still all too present in today’s society.

selma cartoon
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Studies have shown that people are attracted toward people of the same race. One such study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows that from the young age of three months old, children begin to prefer being around their own race.

Perhaps this is why the Oscar judges, who were 94 percent white, failed to nominate any blacks, and why films like Selma had an unfair disadvantage.

Out of the 5,783 people who judged films and actors for this year’s Oscar nominations, about 2 percent were African American.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which votes for Oscar nominees and winners, continually fails to improve diversity in the judge panel by annually selecting judges from the white race.

It is true that African American Lupita Nyong’o was awarded with best actress in a supporting role in the 2014 Oscars, and the film “12 Years a Slave” won best picture last year. It would seem that the Academy feels they have already completed an assignment to show they they are as open to blacks as they are to whites.

There were worthy candidates, such as lead actor David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay of “Selma,” who received no recognition for creating a movie nominated for Best Picture.

While the shootings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have brought discrimination and racial profiling to the forefront of society, it is clear from the Oscars that racial discrimination permeates more than just the crime scene. It can be found in the elegance and glamour of an award ceremony.

The Academy can start inducting change by selecting a more racially diverse judge panel for next year’s award ceremonies. Any authentic talent displayed by African Americans should be acknowledged every year—and not so that the Academy can put up a facade of racial diversity.

All of us can create change by using our voices to raise awareness that racial injustice is still all too relevant. By seeing through the discrimination hidden behind the attractive actors and their beautiful gowns, we can continue paving the way to a more equitable and inclusive society.