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TONI THORNE: Lack of diversity at Oscars


TONI THORNE: Lack of diversity at Oscars

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THIS YEAR’S list of Oscar nominees depicts an extreme lack of diversity. As a result, the hashtag #Oscarssowhite went, and continues to go viral.

The movies Creed and Straight Outta Compton received recognition, but their nominations were for either white writers (Compton) or a white performer (Sylvester Stallone in Creed). The black directors of each movie along with their non-white actors, were excluded from the list of nominees. Tragic.

This is the second consecutive year for the #oscarssowhite outcry.

A preliminary investigation into the breakdown of the organisation responsible for the Oscars did not surprise me. There are 6 261 members in the organisation. Although the president of the organisation, Cheryl Boone Isaacs is a black woman, of that membership 93 per cent are white and 76 per cent are male. The average age of that 93 per cent white membership is 62 years old.

Rough week

This has been a rough week for the Oscars organisation as many leaders in the film industry weighed in with various opinions. Spike Lee (who has received an honorary Oscar as a Lifetime Achievement Award) as well as Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith have called for persons to boycott this year’s Oscars. Idris Elba and Lupita Nyongo issued statements imploring for more diversity and the need for change.

In observation of this entire fiasco, the comments which caused me to raise my eyebrows did not come from those who view that Chris Rock, as a black man, should no longer host the Oscars. I actually think Chris Rock should honour his contract and host the awards.

Those in the black community who have been pressuring Chris rock to step down are missing the bigger picture. More Chris Rocks need to host these events.

The comments which cause me to “give major side eye” did not come from those who agree with Vin Diesel and his view that the Oscars lack relevance. I agree with Mr Diesel’s sentiments. Half of the movies which win are neither watched nor known by the mainstream audience.

They are also not the big box-office sellers.

 The three comments which forced me to ask myself “Wuh kinda igrunt people is really be walking bout pun God earth?” came from Charlotte Rampling, Michael Caine and the worst of all, Stacy Dash.

Racist to whites

Nominee Charlotte Rampling described the outcry as “racist to white people”.

In many theories of the institution of race, there are many who would disagree with Rampling by saying that black people simply cannot be racist. These persons would purport that black people can be prejudiced but they cannot be racist because the vehicle of race cannot be steered by a minority.

On another note, Michael Caine urged black artists to “be patient”. My question to Mr Caine is, “Patient for what?” “Be patient” is something you tell to your poodle or perhaps a fussing child.

“Be patient” is not something you tell a community of actors who feel segregated and misrepresented by what is viewed as an elitist organisation which refuses to acknowledge untold stories which need to be seen and heard.

Stacey Dash commented on Fox news stating, “Either we want to have segregation or integration. If we want integration, we have to get rid of stations like BET.” I found BET’s responses to Stacy Dash to be quite fitting and very hilarious. They tweeted to her and asked back for their cheque they paid her in a BET funded reality series that Ms Dash was a part of.

I do take Ms Dash’s point. I would even go further to suggest that the black American artistic community’s behaviour towards white Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was grossly embarrassing, unacceptable and highly prejudiced.

However, with reference to Dash’s comments, in the black community there are certain things black people should not and would not say.

BET is a station which promotes a significant amount of black culture in a world which continues to battle with race relations and the stories of persons such as Travon Martin continue to be a dime a dozen. White artists do not care to be acknowledged by the BET Awards. Similarly, most rappers do not care to be acknowledged by the Country Music Awards.

The Oscars is not a targeted awards ceremony. It is regarded as the premiere award ceremony highlighting the crème de la crème.

As a black woman who watches a lot of television, I fail to see how the crème de la crème could be #all-white.

Toni Thorne is a young entrepreneur and World Economic Forum Global Shaper who loves global youth culture, a great debate and living in paradise. Email [email protected]