Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hollywood's Race Problem


The topic of race within Hollywood has become an immensely charged topic not only in the entertainment trades, but on social media as well. Particularly with the release of the 2015 Oscar Award nominations where Ava DuVernay’s critically lauded Martin Luther King Jr. bio pic “Selma” garnered only two nominations (Best Picture and Best Original Song) despite earth-shattering buzz surrounding the mostly African American cast, notably Davis Oyelowo.   Social media platforms exploded with outrage and proclamations of Hollywood’s continued exclusion of people of color from playing in the “Oscar’s game” with Twitter hashtags like #OscarsSoWhite and #WhiteOscars popping up and ruling Twitter’s trending topics for days afterward.

With the highly volatile subject of race dominating the headlines of news channels, numerous websites and blogs since the Ferguson Case last summer, to say “tensions are high” concerning the sensitive topic of race is beyond an understatement and way past stating the obvious. But while Americans on all ethnic fronts are trying to have a healthy debate about the state of racial relations in a post-Obama America, there are a few ‘tricksters” in the mix muddying up the clear channels of communication and information within the World Wide Web.

As I was nonchalantly scrolling through my Instagram timeline yesterday, I came across this picture that sent my eyes rolling to the back of my head so hard I thought I would have to phone it in for the rest of the day out of temporary blindness:


As you can see, the picture indicates that the Oscars only recognized these black actresses due to their portrayal of stereo-typically and unflattering roles in their respective films. This “infographic” disturbs me to no end. Not only is it slightly erroneous and far-reaching (“phony psychic…” Really?), but it is horribly misleading in the grand scheme of things. This is where my ire mostly resides. This where my mind went into debate mode with itself, shooting a million questions about why would someone create such a one-sided graphic and release it into the world? Was there a hidden agenda behind it? Or was it unintentional? Was it blatant ignorance or blatant tomfoolery constructed to further fuel the grease fire that is racial relations in America and American pop culture? Did the pic’s creator do any research to back up their claims? Or did they do the research and knowingly left out facts that would render the ‘infographic’ irrelevant and faker than a 3 dollar bill? These questions among others permeated my mind all day, which is sad because I have even more pressing matters to worry about on a daily, if not hourly, basis. But then my mind screamed that the reason the photo struck a fine chord with me is that someone is going to take this picture as gospel truth and not look any further to either dispel or research the accuracy of the information in front of him or her. Because as any educated and perceptive individual no matter what race or background they may originate from will tell you is that in this current society where the “share” and “retweet” buttons are not far from your peripheral on your Facebook/Twitter feed, some people do not fact check sources. Some people do not let their critical thinking skills come to the forefront and ask viable questions before pressing said “share” and “retweet” buttons. This is where the ‘trickster’ comes in and preys upon this unsavory truth. Again, I don’t know if this pic was created out of sheer angry ignorance or for malicious intent, but the common denominator is that it’s dangerously misleading. Because despite the clear lack of diversity among the Oscars when it comes to people of color, there have been several groundbreaking triumphs within the award show’s history concerning black entertainers. Here’s an abridged list of Oscar Award winning African Americans:

  • Sidney Poitier (1963) Best Actor for "Lilies in the Field"
  • Denzel Washington (1989) Best-Supporting Actor for "Glory" and (2001) Best Actor for "Training Day"
  • Jamie Foxx (2004) Best Actor for "Ray"
  • Forrest Whitaker (2006) Best Actor for "The Last King of Scotland"
  • Louis Gossett Jr. (1982) Best Supporting Actor Award for "An Officer and a Gentleman"
  • Cuba Gooding, Jr. (1996) Best-Supporting Actor for "Jerry Maguire"
  • Morgan Freeman (2004) Best-Supporting Actor for "Million Dollar Baby"
  • Jennifer Hudson (2006) Best-Supporting Actress for "Dreamgirls"
  • T.J. Martin (2012) Best Documentary Feature for "Undefeated"
  • Boger Ross Williams (2009) Best Documentary Short for "Music by Prudence"
  • Prince (1984) Best Original Musical Score for "Purple Rain"
  • Herbie Hancock (1986) Best Original Score for "Round Midnight"
  • Isaac Hayes (1971) Best Original Song for "Shaft"
  • Irene Cara (1983) Best Original Song for "Flashdance"
  • Stevie Wonder (1984) Best Original Song for "The Woman in Red"
  • Lionel Ritchie (1985) Best Original Song for "White Nights"
  • Three Six Mafia (2005) Best Original Song for "Hustle & Flow" (Ahem…)
  • Steve McQueen (2013) Best Picture for "12 Years A Slave"
  • Willie D. Burton (1988) Best Sound Mixing for "Bird" and (2006) Best Sound Mixing for "Dreamgirls"
  • Russell Williams (1989) Best Sound Mixing for "Glory" and (1990) Best Sound Mixing for "Dances with Wolves"
  • Geoffrey Fletcher (2009) Best Writing for an Adapted Screenplay for "Precious"
  • John Ridley (2013) Best Writing for an Adapted Screenplay for "12 Years a Slave"
Now don’t get it twisted. People are rightly pissed about the state of racial relations in America and some of the arguments I’ve heard in the last seven months (and the last several years) have been strong valid arguments that need proper discussion and analysis within every community in America. And yes, the roles Halle, Octavia, Monique, and Lupita depicted are not a desired look at the portrayal of the black American experience. But if you are going to lead a debate or a discussion or a counterpoint, please be more careful and respectful of the audience you are conveying to by providing the whole facts.





MARK O. ESTES
Male Media Mind