It seems that I annually write a blog regarding some “prestigious” Hollywood Awards show shunning African-American producers, directors, and stars. Although there is much that can be said regarding the choices of the overwhelming elderly white male voting members who select what and whom will be nominated for a show such as the Oscar’s; there is no doubt that such decisions will always be tinged by some form of racial bias.
I have little concern regarding who is nominated for some Hollywood Awards Show such as the Oscar’s; put simply, such issues do not matter to me at all. However, I am concerned with the illogical emotional investment that African-American stars have placed in the hands of the white gatekeepers who guard entry to the hallowed halls of the Oscar’s and similar events.
For the second year in a row, not a single African-American actor/actress was nominated for an Oscar. Spike Lee, an individual who last year received an honorary Award, has publicly taken the organization to task for their glaring omission. Lee has queried, “How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let’s Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can’t Act?! WTF!!” In a desperate attempt to express his angst, neither Lee nor his wife will attend this year’s Oscar events. “We Cannot Support It And Mean No Disrespect To My Friends, Host Chris Rock and Producer Reggie Hudlin, President Isaacs And The Academy.”
The irony of this moment is that even without a single Black nominee, the Oscar’s will be ‘blacker’ than at any time in its vaunted history as this year’s event is headed by a Black Academy President (Cheryl Boone Isaacs), Host (Chris Rock), and producer (Reginald Hudlin). Black Hollywood Mogul Jada Pinkett relates that “At the Oscars…people of color are always welcomed to give out awards…even entertain. But we are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments. Should people of color refrain from participating all together?”
The overarching question facing Black Hollywood is a simple one of ‘What will a boycott accomplish?’ The truth of the matter is that a boycott, although covered by major news outlets, will have a negligible affect upon what types of movies, storylines, actors/actresses, directors, and producers are ‘green-lighted’. Unfortunately for Black Hollywood, until they infiltrate those areas, they can count on routinely being left out.
Spike Lee illuminates this point when he relates that “The Academy Awards Is Not Where The “Real” Battle Is. It’s In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To “Turnaround” Or Scrap Heap. People, The Truth Is We Ain’t In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White.”
Considering the harsh reality that there is actually little that Black’s in Hollywood can do to impact how things are done in that world, it may be time that we ‘took our ball and went home.’
Although many would consider such a move akin to a surrender of some kind, their analysis is hopelessly flawed and devoid of a proper historical context. If such figures would only examine the post-World War I period they would find brilliant Black artists taking the heed of their contemporaries such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Countee Cullen to turn inward and focus their talents not on replicating pre-existing white classic texts and catering to whites, rather doing their absolute best in creating their own Black Arts traditions. There is no doubt that the toiling of such fields would be exponentially more fruitful than the stripped plots of land that Black Hollywood currently has access to with predictable stories, stereotypical characters, and racist undertones.
Until Black Hollywood totally divests from their psychological and emotional dependence upon ‘white industry leaders’ who they have voluntarily agreed to imbue with the power to coronate some works worthy and others worthless, there is no hope for contemporary Black Arts. Black Hollywood must accept the reality that white America will never celebrate positive Black cultural expressions, particularly if it is not financially beneficial to do so, before they will be able to turn inward and focus their attention upon creating and screening positive uplifting images of worth and utility to Black audiences.
My primary question for Black Hollywood is a simple one, ‘Why is the applause of your own not enough for you?’
James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2015