I’d need more than two hands to count how many times I’ve been discouraged by the white-dominant nature of the arts world.
Two weeks ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced an all-white cast of nominees for the 88th Academy Awards in the categories of Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.
Responsible for highlighting excellence in cinema, it seemed the Academy believes — for the second consecutive year — that non-white people aren’t deserving of the title.
Since the nominations were announced, I couldn’t help but get into those essay-long, frustration-fuelled arguments that fill up Facebook threads.
Even though this is the second time in a row this has happened.
Even though I really shouldn’t be surprised.
And yet, the lack of non-white representation on the largest cinematic stage in the world stung just as much as it did last year.
I started writing — poetry, prose and more relevantly, screenplays — many years ago. To succeed and be recognized, not only as a female artist but as a female artist of colour, has proven time and time again to be no easy feat.
So, when the Academy publicized and broadcasted their celebration of over 20 performers and all of them just happen to be white, it suddenly became personal.
Why? Because it silences non-white aspiring filmmakers and actors who dream of one day reaching that scale of recognition but feel as though there’s no point in trying.
With social media in an uproar, several personalities publicly committed to boycotting the awards, including actress Jada Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee.
Following this news, just when it seemed the Oscars golden statue had permanently been painted white, the Academy released a statement that promised a more colourful future.
“A sweeping series of substantive changes designed to make Academy’s membership, its governing bodies, and its voting members significantly more diverse” will be implemented. The Academy says it will commit to doubling the amount of women and non-white voting members by 2020.
It’s refreshing that the Academy is finally coming to terms with its history of upholding white, male supremacy, and allowing itself to be held accountable if their recent promises aren’t kept.
Because they will be held accountable.
Regardless of reoccurring arguments to not take these awards shows so seriously, or that it was just a “coincidence” that the best films of the year feature only white people, the Academy is slowly learning to be less passive to the stories of non-white artists.
I say it’s about time.
Ramna is The Journal’s Arts Editor. She’s a second-year English major.
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