By MATTHEW MACALOON
Historically, Hollywood has been regarded as a pioneer for bringing awareness to social movements and issues going on within the world and specifically the U.S. We have seen this in movies like “American History X,” “Schindler’s List,” “Shall We Dance,” “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “12 Years A Slave.” If Hollywood is a culturally aware entity with progressive tendencies, then why is the Academy of Arts and Sciences riddled with elderly white men? And why do we see so little recognition for people of color?
In 87 years of having the Oscars, only 31 awards have ever been given to black artists. That is out of nearly 3,000 awards given, which comes out to a whopping one percent of Oscars being awarded to black artists. The issue here is then that people of color, particularly blacks, are being marginalized by the Academy.
Although the argument could be made that the films winning at the Oscars just happen to have predominantly white performers and it is all a coincidence that black artists only happen to win one percent of the time. To try and make this argument, though, would only be perpetuating the marginalization of colored people within the film industry.
One percent cannot be a coincidence; it is evidence of institutionalized racism within the Academy.
The Academy is made up of 77 percent males and 94 percent white individuals and can only be joined via invitation.
“The Academy’s membership process is by sponsorship, not application. Candidates must be sponsored by two Academy members from the branch to which the candidate seeks admission,” states the Oscar Membership website.
That kind of exclusivity just cannot be chalked up to coincidence, just like the fact that black artists only consist of one percent of the Oscars ever awarded cannot be chalked to coincidence.
The icing on the cake is that Oscar winners and nominees are automatically considered for membership to the Academy. Given that Oscar winners are presumably the most likely to be inducted into the Academy and that the Academy is typically made up of 6,000-6,500 individuals and that there have only ever been 31 Oscars awarded to black artists, then even if every black Oscar winner became a part of the Academy they would still only make up a half of a percent of the entire Academy.
The Academy is a blaring example of the kind of institutionalized racism that is present in America and the world today. So the real question is when will the Academy acknowledge this marginalization of black artists and consequentially a huge part of American and world culture and do something about it? I hope it is soon, but with the way that race issues tend to be treated in this culture you can almost guarantee the answer will be a steadfast never.