Welcome to the wonderful world of whitewashing. Have a seat. Pour a drink. You’ll be here for a while. Maybe until the year 2090…or so…depends on what happens..
As many of you probably know, the 2015 Oscar Nominations were announced early this morning. I was listening as I made my oatmeal, not once looking up. I already KNEW what was going to happen…I wasn’t interested. You see, I’ve never been a huge fan of the Oscars because I couldn’t quite boost my spirits enough to celebrate an awards show that so blatantly excluded people of color. And as I sat down at my desk around 10 A.M. or so, to review the nominations that I had refused to digest along with my breakfast…SUUURPRIIIISE! Whitest Oscars since ’98, as the Huffington Post so unabashedly put it.
I know, I know. You guys are tired of hearing about Black and White…my response is, and we’re TIRED of having to talk about it…in this context.
Let’s just jump right into it. The highly anticipated, box office hit “Selma” was snubbed by the Academy. That’s right. No Best Director nomination for Ava DuVernay, and no nomination for David Oyelowo for his portrayal of Dr. King in the film. Had DuVernay been nominated, she would have made history as the FIRST black female nominee in that category. That’s right…FIRST.
Here’s the thing, though still surprising, this snub wouldn’t be so infuriating if the Academy didn’t have a longstanding history of marginalizing people of color. It was only in 2001 that Halle Berry made history for being the first Black woman to take home the gold for Best Actress. Even then, we couldn’t really be THAT excited, because she won for playing a desperate, abandoned, and undereducated waitress who wanted nothing more than Billy Bob, an alcoholic and racist white man to “make her feel good” by f*cking her brains out.
Then, our guy Denzel…DENZEL DENZEL DENZEL. Pardon me as I fan myself. No matter how much I have the HOTS for Mr. Washington, please understand that what I am about to say is in no way related to my infatuation with him. Denzel Washington has REPEATEDLY been snubbed by the Academy. Let me first add that Denzel is one of the greatest actors of our time. I’m talking, He Got Game, Malcolm X, Antwone Fisher, The Hurricane, Crimson Tide, Cry Freedom, Remember the Titans, Philadelphia, none of which he received an Oscar for. And the list goes on…but you know what? I guess he should be appreciative that he was able to win a little gold statue for his role as a slave in Glory as well as his role as a corrupt, drug addicted police officer in Training Day. HOORAY for Denzel! Thank you dear Academy, you are far too kind!
And what about Sam Jackson in a Time to Kill, Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne in What’s Love Got to Do With It, Micheal Clark Duncan in the The Green Mile, Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones…*pulls out 20 foot scroll of other Black folk snubbed at the Oscars*
Needless to say, the nominees this year were all male and nearly all white, except Alejandro González Iñárritu, the Mexican filmmaker nominated for “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).”
Now that we’ve had a little history lesson, what are we to do with this information? Keep pretending that structural racism doesn’t affect what we hear, see and do on a regular basis? Do we ignore the very OBVIOUS disregard for people of color on the big screen? Or do we, as many apologists and people who favor respectability politics suggest, “Make Our Own.” Newsflash: When we “make our own” they aren’t RECOGNIZED in the broad scheme of things!
Guys, I’m tired. Enjoy the Oscars. But before you do, take a look at the list of Black folk who have been nominated over the years, and those who have won. (The * indicates a win) I think you’ll be surprised at the people who have NEVER won a fancy little gold man….or maybe you won’t be.
James Earl Jones
Samuel L. Jackson
Michael Clarke Duncan
*Cuba Gooding Jr.,
*Louis Gossett Jr.
Carol Channing (debatable)