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Oscar Award: A Competition, Not A Racial Campaign


Will-SmithWill Smith is a titan in his fields. He has won countless awards and acclaim for his work in the music, television and film industries. He has shattered box office records, led the race on most bankable star numerous times, been nominated for 2 Oscars, and in conclusion is a beast. It would concern me if the reason for all this is because he is black, and not just a great talent.

In the same vein, I hate to think that Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett, Smith, Mark Ruffalo etc. should expect The Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences (The ‘Academy’) to determine Oscar nominees based on colour. It is one thing to single out an individual for their performance, and opine that they were robbed. It is something else entirely to put it down to race. I read an article on the biggest snubs of this year’s Oscar nominations, after listing a handful of actors on their individual performances, the list went on to categorise ‘African Americans’ as a whole.

I shudder to think that the article’s author is not familiar with the name and work of such actors as Michael B. Jordan, so they made it about race. When Robert de Niro’s snub for his performance in Joy was mentioned, it was not a snub against Italian Americans. Similarly, if any black actor was considered snubbed, the attention should be on the individual in question and not their race as a whole. Is it possible that, like the Academy, they could not identify enough specific performances?

Issues of race have always been very sensitive, and at times, the lines can get blurred. One should not attain that the Oscars are racist because there are no black-acting nominees. It is more likely down to logic. From a practical point of view there are less black actors putting out films than white actors.

According to a recent report, minorities make up 37.4 per cent of the United States population. When we concentrate just on Hollywood the various races collectively make up 16.7 per cent of roles cast, and the white population make up 83.3 per cent based on the law of averages, and the fact that white people make up the majority of both the population and Hollywood, there are likely to be more white Oscar nominations. As the pool is larger, the probability is that there are likely to be more white actors picked. One cannot then blame the Oscars for racism when they are dealing with the numbers available to them, which likely stems from who makes up the country.

It is simple to paint America as black and white due to its colourful history. This however, to the chagrin of Donald Trump, is not the case, and when we are discussing diversity, the conversation must be extended to all races. The above percentages show that most races make up fewer of the population, therefore the various industries, including entertainment will reflect this.

The Music of Black Origin (MOBOS) and Black Entertainment Television (BET) awards are shows based around a world where black people are the majority, but it does not exclude other races. Justin Timberlake or indeed Bieber can be a nominee regardless of being white; however, if there is a year in which the best male and best female categories are all black, this is not racist… the probability stands that this can likely be the case.

Halle Berry complained that she is saddened due to the fact that since her performance for Monster’s Ball in 2002, no black actress has won the Oscar for best actress. However, one must consider that no Asian has ever won; and you might just come to the realisation that it is not a black issue.

The Oscars have no fewer than four acting categories and five nominees in each category. They are the big leagues; and to find yourself on that list, not only must you have delivered (in the opinion of The Academy) one of the best 20 acting performances of the past year, you must also have a good reputation, be viewed as a serious actor and put in a reasonable amount of lobbying. The Oscars is a competition, not a racial awareness campaign. The Oscars are not in my opinion based on skin colour. If the aforementioned Smith is acting as a Nigerian and his accent is not, then he has not ‘Acted’ well enough, if the audience does not believe in the role, why should the academy?

One can celebrate the black race, and what has been overcome when black individuals are placed in the running or indeed win an Oscar, but one should not commend performances that are not at the peak of the game. I repeat, the Oscars are a competition and only the strongest will survive.

Some have put this issue of racism down to the work available to black people in the industry, there are arguments for and against this. I will leave you with this thought; the television industry has recently gone through an influx of black shows or shows with black leads…

These include, How To Get Away With Murder, Empire, Black-Ish and Luther. This has increased the nominations and, indeed, wins for black actors, including Viola Davies, Taraji P. Henson and the “Oscar snubbed” Idria Elba. A noticeable similar move has not been made in the film industry, with the exception of specialised filmmakers and studios such as Tyler Perry, whose films however are targeted to a specific market. If more films aimed at the general market took a chance on more diverse (not just black) actors, then perhaps this may solve the issue.

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