The failure of the Academy to nominate actors from ethnic minorities for the 2016 Oscars was an eye-opener. For two years in a row, all acting nominees were white and this neglect caused Jada Pinkett Smith, director Spike Lee and even Sylvester Stallone to raise the red flag.
It was no surprise, therefore, when a statement was issued by president of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs saying: “I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes.” From all indication, Cheryl herself, who is black, had failed to push for the necessary inclusions and the statement she issued only came because the Academy had been placed in an embarrassing situation.
A closer look at history will reveal ethnic minorities have suffered marginalisation of epic proportions anytime someone from their own circles was head of an establishment. This is just something black people do best. Anytime we are put in a position where we can bring about change to all and sundry, our own brethren bear the brunt of our leadership or rather lack of leadership. Our desire for political correctness puts us in a straight jacket leaving us eager to please our masters.
This brings to mind a scene in ‘The Devil’s Advocate’ where Florida defence lawyer Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) chose to neglect his sick wife to heed to a call to duty by his benefactor John Milton (Al Pacino). Although John had insisted Kevin should attend to his wife at the expense of his high profile legal case, the latter was driven by ambition to do the opposite.
Many powerful black people in a position to bring about change or condemn injustice would either tighten the screws or ignore an opportunity to speak up. We try to impress those who put us up there by being tough or lukewarm in instances where it is necessary to speak up. But just think how you would appear to the same people you try to please: weak, insensitive, maybe stupid and someone willing to sacrifice their own brethren on the altar of ambition.
Sad as it maybe, the indiscriminate shootings of blacks in the US seem to have re-awakened the younger generation of black people. More powerful black individuals in entertainment are beginning to speak up against injustice. The younger generation of black entertainers have found it necessary to rediscover their roots and reflect the motherland in their performances. And the older generation, who have made great strides in the entertainment industry are, more than ever, using their platforms to help bring up a more focused and outspoken black generation.
It is worth noting, the statement by Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the first step for the Academy to run a more racially diverse Oscar nominations. Embracing diversity in our current dispensation has become a no-brainer, and the Academy cannot afford to play catch up because eyes will be watching.