Should everyone get a trophy, simply for showing up at the game? In light of the growing chorus of discontent in black-Hollywood, the argument has emerged as to the causation of the lack of African-American nominees in the Oscars pool this season. It has been two years since people of color were nominated or winners of the golden icon.
Initiated by the elegant, courteous, and erudite statement by actor/producer/director, Jada Pinkett-Smith, the question, and the accompanying intimated boycott have blossomed. In a video statement released by Pinkett-Smith, she said, “Maybe it's time we pull back our resources and we put them back into our communities, and we make programs for ourselves that acknowledge us in ways that we see fit, that are just as good as the so-called mainstream.” Some could consider this as, well-intentioned, ‘sour-grapes’.
According to nominated actor, Charlotte Rampling, she asserts that all the hullabaloo about the lack of black nominees, is “racist against white people.”
“One can never really know, but perhaps the black actors did not deserve to make the final list,” Rampling added. When asked if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) should introduce quotas, she replied: “Why classify people? These days everyone is more or less accepted ... People will always say: ‘Him, he’s less handsome’; ‘Him, he’s too black’; ‘He is too white’ ... someone will always be saying ‘You are too’ [this or that] ... But do we have to take from this that there should be lots of minorities everywhere?”
That she would make such a statement would be even more laughable, had it not come from a foreigner with no, demonstrated, history or knowledge of the experience of black exclusion in most every venue in America.
The comment, no matter how naïve, bears a small, yet valid, glimmer of uncomfortable intrigue. We love our treasured African-American thespians deeply. We cherish, respect, and adore them as our very own. We acknowledge the hurdles that they have had to climb in reaching the heights they’ve achieved. We have watched them champion causes of great importance, some of whom, to their personal detriment. As a culture, we are possessed of some of the best-educated, pedigreed, masterful actors in history. Yet?What if?
Is it possible that, in very valid ways, the performances of our brethren didn’t measure up, on balance, with their white counterparts this time around? That they simply didn’t make the cut? Maybe it isn’t the actors’ fault, at all. Perhaps it is the screenplay that wasn’t good enough to catapult the actor into Oscar territory? Maybe it was the director’s failure? There are so many working parts in mounting a film production, that the “line-items” are staggering. That is not to imply that there is not an indelible, undeniable, track-record of exclusion of actors of color, for as long as, some would argue, the awards have existed.
We have had our super achievers... From Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American woman to earn the prize in 1939. Yet it wasn’t until some fifty-one years later, that Whoopi Goldberg became, the long-overdue, second. Goldberg is one of the finest actors of her generation, and arguably of all time.