Academy Awards should seek to diversify award nominations

by Taylor Simmons, Contributor

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Over the past month, Hollywood has been in an uproar surrounding the controversy over the lack of diversity in the 2016 Oscar nominations.

This is the second year in a row that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences did not nominate an actor of color for any single Oscar.

While arguments have been made that films involving actors of color simply did not meet Oscar-worthy standards, many individuals are naming a host of successful films released this past year with strong African-American actors and actresses.

“Creed”, “Beasts of No Nation” and “Straight Outta Compton” were among the major films that did extremely well at the box office yet received no nominations for roles filled by African-American actors or actresses.

Actress Jada Pinkett Smith has taken a stance on the issue, likely in support of her husband’s (Will Smith) unacknowledged role in “Concussion.”

“At the Oscars … people of color are always welcomed to give out awards … even entertain, but we are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments,” Pinkett Smith said on Twitter. “Should people of color refrain from participating all together?”

The issue here is that the suggestion of a boycott or even separate awards show would likely only drive Hollywood further apart.

The focus of the conversation should not be on how to create more divisions or even on the awards alone.

The fact of the matter is that there was simply not a substantial amount of films with extraordinary African-American actors and that is what needs to change.

If critically acclaimed roles are not being filled by minority actors then there will never be an opportunity to diversify these awards.

Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs released a statement regarding the issue in the days following the nominations reveal.

“I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees. While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion,” the statement read.

According to Isaacs’s statement, the controversy may have gained more attention than ever and change may be seen in time for next year’s nominations.

“In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond,” Boone Isaacs said in the statement.

While movements toward change are always a positive step, there is only so much the Academy can do to bring more diversity to the table.

“I think we have to stop pointing fingers and blaming the Academy,” director and Oscar-winner Steven Spielberg. “It’s people that hire, it’s people at the main gate of studios and independents, it’s who’s writing diversity — it starts on the page. And we all have to be more proactive in getting out there and just seeking talent.”

Though the issue may not lie within the Academy itself, whose panel judges solely on quality, it is time to allow more opportunity for minorities to excel in the industry and have a chance to obtain these awards.

While there have been several Oscar wins for African-American actors in the past 15 years, there is clearly still room for improvement.

Again, the movement must be in the direction of inclusion, not division.

The final decisions of various actors in regards to attending this year’s Oscars will set the tone for what is to come.

The 88th Academy Awards will air live this Sunday night, Feb. 28, hosted by the always hilarious Chris Rock.

You can watch it on ABC at 5:30 p.m.

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