After Snub of Actors by Oscars, Awards Accused of Being “Lily White”

If you are upset that South Africa’s Charlize Theron didn’t get nominated by the Academy Awards for her brilliant performance in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, that’s nothing compared to the racial furore that’s been caused by people of colour having been overlooked, with two well-known movie industry members saying they won’t attend the 2016 Oscar awards in February because it’s too “lily white”.

Jada Pinkett Smith, the actress wife of Will Smith, posted a video on Facebook on Monday – viewed eight million times by Tuesday – in which she said she would not attend the Oscar awards and it was time for people of colour to “stand in our power”.

Director Spike Lee said on an Instagram post that he too would not be attending the “lily white” ceremony, which for the second year running had nominated no actors of colour. (Both the video and Instagram post are below.)

Of the 20 actors nominated in the best actor and actress and supporting role categories last week, they were all white. It has often been alleged that the Academy’s 6,000 voting members (which include previous winners) are heavily white, male and old.

This year's Oscar host Chris Rock makes fun of #OscarsSoWhite by playing with talcum powder in the video below.
This year’s Oscar host Chris Rock makes fun of #OscarsSoWhite by playing with talcum powder in the video above or below.

The fact that very few actors of colour were nominated was already raised in the media last week, almost from the moment the Oscars were announced. Major performances like Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation” and Michael B. Jordan in “Creed”, as well as movies like “Straight Outta Compton” and “Creed”, had been sorely overlooked, many people said.

In a story on thewrap.com on Tuesday, readers were asked to nominate the actors and movies they thought most snubbed by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences this year. Highest on the list were Elba and Charlize Theron for her role in “Mad Max: Fury Road” (which received other nominations).

The head of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, issued a statement on Monday, saying she was heartbroken about the slow pace of progress exhibited by the Academy’s voting contingent.

Statement from Academy President, issued by the Academy
Statement from Academy President, issued by the Academy.

“We have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years,” she said. “We need to do more, and better and quickly.” (See full statement below.)

As this video points out, there will be one black person taking the stage on the night of the Oscars, its host, Chris Rock:

But even Rock has been pressured to withdraw from presenting this year’s Oscars in protest, although others – like Oscar telecast writer Dave Boone – have pointed out that this gives Rock “the world’s biggest platform and an excellent area for jokes that only he can do”. As you can see from the Oscar promo video, he has already begun!

Spike Lee made his statement on Instagram:

#OscarsSoWhite… Again. I Would Like To Thank President Cheryl Boone Isaacs And The Board Of Governors Of The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences For Awarding Me an Honorary Oscar This Past November. I Am Most Appreciative. However My Wife, Mrs. Tonya Lewis Lee And I Will Not Be Attending The Oscar Ceremony This Coming February. We Cannot Support It And Mean No Disrespect To My Friends, Host Chris Rock and Producer Reggie Hudlin, President Isaacs And The Academy. But, How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let's Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can't Act?! WTF!! It's No Coincidence I'm Writing This As We Celebrate The 30th Anniversary Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday. Dr. King Said "There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It's Right". For Too Many Years When The Oscars Nominations Are Revealed, My Office Phone Rings Off The Hook With The Media Asking Me My Opinion About The Lack Of African-Americans And This Year Was No Different. For Once, (Maybe) I Would Like The Media To Ask All The White Nominees And Studio Heads How They Feel About Another All White Ballot. If Someone Has Addressed This And I Missed It Then I Stand Mistaken. As I See It, The Academy Awards Is Not Where The "Real" Battle Is. It's In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To "Turnaround" Or Scrap Heap. This Is What's Important. The Gate Keepers. Those With "The Green Light" Vote. As The Great Actor Leslie Odom Jr. Sings And Dances In The Game Changing Broadway Musical HAMILTON, "I WANNA BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS". People, The Truth Is We Ain't In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White. (Cont'd)

A photo posted by Spike Lee (@officialspikelee) on

In this video Jada Pinkett Smith posted on Facebook, she puts her case:

We must stand in our power!

We must stand in our power.

Posted by Jada Pinkett Smith on Monday, 18 January 2016