Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Charlotte Rampling, Brie Larson, Michael Fassbender. These actors and actresses, along with 15 others, are nominated for an Oscar award this year. Unfortunately, not a single person of color was included in the acting nominees; this is the second time in a row this has occurred. As a result, #OscarsSoWhite, created by Broadway Black Managing Editor and general advocate for racial equality circulated around Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook.
In addition to the hashtag on social media sites, some entertainers are boycotting the Oscars. Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee will not support the award show this year. The boycotting is all about recognition for people of color and wanting to know that their stories matter. There should be more of them represented and awarded in the film industry for their work in acting. Hollywood directors should create thought-provoking, non-stereotypical leading roles for them.
In television, you are starting to see people of color in leading roles, such as Nicole Beharie (Sleepy Hollow), Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin), Priyanka Chopra (Quantico) and Constance Wu (Fresh off the Boat), but film still lacks broader representation. Stars, like Sanaa Lathan (The Perfect Guy), Michael B. Jordan (Creed), John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Reawakens), Will Smith (Concussion), Teyonah Parris (Chi-Raq), O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) and Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation) have been in amazing films and performed phenomenally. Yet, African-Americans are still not represented at this award show.
A YouTube clip posted by Screen Crushhows all the African-American actors who have won an Oscar award; only 14 made the cut. Hattie McDaniel (1940), Sidney Poitier (1964), Louis Gosset, Jr. (1983), Denzel Washington (1990/2002), Whoopi Goldberg (1991), Cuba Gooding, Jr. (1997) and Halle Berry (2002) are a few in the video. Others include Jamie Foxx (2005), Morgan Freeman (2005), Forest Whitaker (2007), Jennifer Hudson (2007), Mo’Nique (2010), Octavia Spencer (2012) and Lupita Nyong’o (2014). Other categories won by African-Americans include Best Original Song, Best Motion Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Documentary, Best Sound and Best Original Score. Even with all of the winners combined, it is still a very small amount compared to the number of Caucasian winners. In an infographic by Jason Low, less than 5 percent of African-American actors and actresses have received this award.
Actors and actresses of other races have won even less frequently, or never at all. Only two Asian actors took home the award: Miyoshi Umeki (1958) and Haing S. Ngor (1985). Chief Dan George, a Native American actor, was nominated for an Oscar in 1971, but he did not win. Some actors and actresses with Spanish, Latino, Hispanic or Mexican origin who have won are José Ferrer (1951), Anthony Quinn (1957), Rita Moreno (1962), Benicio del Toro (2001) and Javier Bardem (2008). Indian actors and actresses have not won either, but they have been recognized in other categories, such as Ben Kingsley (1983), .
Besides African-Americans, other people of color have been nominated and won awards in other categories, too. Alejandro Iñárritu, who is of Mexican heritage, won Best Director last year for Birdman and is nominated again in the same category for The Revenant. Emmanuel Lubezki is a Mexican cinematographer and won an Oscar for Gravity (2014) and Birdman (2015); he is also nominated for The Revenant. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a Pakistani filmmaker, is nominated for her documentary A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness; she previously won for her film Saving Face in 2012.
The president of the Academy of Motion Picture of Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, made a statement about the diversity of the Oscars.
“While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion,” Isaacs said. “This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership.”