Black Hollywood Doesn’t Need to Boycott the Oscars, White Liberal Hollywood Does

Rev. Al Sharpton is calling on blacks to boycott the Academy Awards and not watch the broadcast after the mostly white and male voting members of the Academy nominated 20 white actors as giving the best performances of 2015.

While I’m not trying to rain on Sharpton’s parade, as an African-American I have to ask the question, What would be the point?

First, blacks as a whole don’t watch the Oscars. That’s not really our thing. Sure, some of us do, but not in the numbers that would matter. If anything, we usually digest the recap online the morning after. And even if every black in the country with a television tuned out, it wouldn’t make one bit of difference. Why? Because when was the last time you saw a commercial during the Academy Awards that was targeted toward black people? Exactly.

No, a better call, a much more thoughtful call to action would be to put Hollywood’s liberalism to work by calling on black Hollywood’s white Hollywood friends to sit this one out and refrain from walking the red carpet or attending the event. Maybe Rev. Sharpton doesn’t know this, but most Americans watch the Oscars for the red carpet first and then for the actual ceremony.

Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Will Smith missing in action on the red carpet is not the same as Cate Blanchett, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt not walking the red carpet. If you take away the people who all of America tunes in to see what they’re wearing, you send a message while affecting the show’s ratings and advertisers — and I believe at the end of the day that’s the point — to effect change. Black America, it’s time to flip the script and call on white Hollywood’s liberal actors to show some solidarity with their darker-skinned counterparts and just stay home.

White Hollywood needs to sit this one out. Them not being there is a much louder and more sincere statement than their attending and saying something political in their speech about the lack of blacks as they accept their award in their fancy clothes and jewels and exit stage left to do media interviews.

Sharpton and others who want to get the attention of the Academy’s voting members and create change would do better by affecting the Oscars’ ability to generate revenue with the annual broadcast. If the Oscars don’t have A-list actors on that red carpet and in the audience, nobody — black, white, Latino, Asian, or otherwise — will be watching. Maybe, just maybe, the Academy’s mostly white and male voting bloc that didn’t see any nomination-worthy performances by African-Americans in 2015 will see something wrong with that picture.

Sometimes being an ally means actually having to do something. It’s time for an Oscars with no whites.

If you liked this, read part two: White Hollywood Liberals—Put Up or Shut Up About Oscars So White

The Court of Public Opinion

  • Heather

    Thanks for this. Though I’ve been excited about the boycott, you make such a compelling and sensible argument here.

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  • Human101

    Ok,,,,can someone in an intelligent way explain to me what the difference is between the NAACP Image Awards and the Oscar’s is? They both have memberships, they both have to do with movies, and they both have a black person in charge of its organization. I am a “Mutt” and do not claim any race, so for me, it’s not a race thing. The Image awards is made up of 100% black people accepting an award and always has. The Oscars is primarily made up of white membership, but has had numerous black people receiving awards in the past (Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Jamie Fox, Forest Whitaker, Halle Berry). Opinions?

  • The NAACP Image Awards and other awards that recognize minorities in entertainment were started because honors like the Oscars, Emmys, etc. commonly overlooked their groups–be it Latino, Asian, Black, gay, etc. The difference between the two is that unlike with the Oscars, none of the minority awards ever claimed to be open to everyone in terms of race. I think it’s clear by the names of some of these awards who they are celebrating. That’s not the case with the Oscars. The Oscars’ have a responsibility to include the contributions of all actors and not just white actors. Now if they came up with the White Image Awards and didn’t nominate anyone but whites, I would have nothing to say. But today we’re discussing the Oscar which according to them honor cinematic achievements in the film industry–not the achievements of whites only in film.

  • Markeysha Dawn Davis

    The difference between the Image Awards and the Oscars are vast, Human101. First, the Oscar (or the Award of Merit) was the design of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which was founded in 1927 (according to their website) and held its first awards ceremony in 1929. This academy, founded by industry greats like Louis Mayer (one founder of MGM), was meant to award the general presentation of merit by filmmakers, artists, engineers, musicians, and film actors. Race was not an overt conversation within this mission of awarding merit, but the bias of the Academy has long been evident. For instance, one of the first awards at that first ceremony was given to the Warner Brothers for their work on the first “talkie” (meaning with sound) film “The Jazz Singer,” starring Al Jolson. Is it any surprise to those who know the history of theater or early film in the United States that Jolson, through most of the movie, is in blackface portraying a white musician moonlighting as a “black musician” to get his big break? No, but again, this is if you are familiar with the history of popular theater and film in this nation.

    The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), from the fanfare over D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” (a wildly popular 1915 silent film that celebrated the old South and the rise of the KKK) to the present, has been intent on challenging both the lack of positive representation of African Americans in film (and theater, television, radio, or whichever media the times present) as well as the very absence of nonwhite bodies in film. When Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win an Oscar in 1940, it was of course celebrated, but those sharing the sentiments of the (then) NAACP wondered how long African Americans would be typecast into roles as servants, villains, comic relief/imbeciles, and the like of unsavory social positions just to be rewarded or recognized by the film industry. As long as there was film, there were black filmmakers (like Oscar Micheaux) and black actors (like Bert Williams, who was a black man famous for his blackface routines–and their depth–in the late 1910s and early 1920s). Nary were these folks invited to, recommended or nominated for an Oscar. Not never…here and there as a good supporting role in one of the listed roles above.

    In 1967, according to their website, the NAACP founded the Image Awards to celebrate the achievements of African Americans in entertainment, activism, and representation in the media. To be certain, a number of nonblack persons have been nominated for Image Awards, including Mindy Kaling, Sofia Vergara, Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake, Anderson Cooper, and Angelina Jolie. But, clearly, the Image Awards has a very distinct focus on representation, on countering the lack thereof long presented by the Academy (whose awards are by far more distinguished and perhaps more lucrative for actors and filmmakers than the Image Awards, on any account) and celebrating categories of interest to those audiences whom the NAACP serves (they are the voters, members and nonmembers of the national organization, and not a small committee of 90+% white/70+% male panelists). I think that that representation on who decides is but one of many large differences between the two awards. And, since voting is open and, if you’ve ever watched the Image Awards, the constituency of the audience is pretty diverse, albeit predominantly black, the 100% black assumption does not stand. In fact, not even the founding board of the NAACP in 1909 were “100% black;” at 6 members/officers, the board was about 16% black (scholar W. E. B. Du Bois being the only African-American board member in that inaugural group).

    This is the difference. I hope this is intelligent enough for you.

  • Human101

    Yes it was,,,,,thank you for that. I think they should change the rules for both though. I took a class by a man who is still one of my mentors in life by the name of Yehudi Webster. His thought was that there is no such thing as RACE, which everyone in the class had a hard time grasping. Too many events in the past and in the present perpetuate this, unfortunately.

  • Found this by a friend linking it over on FB. I made a similar argument in my blog ( http://cahighways.org/wordpress/?p=11058 ):

    Building off of this statement by Gene Spafford regarding woman and cybersecurity: If you are invited to speak or appear on a panel at an event, ask who
    else has been invited. If they don’t seem to have invited (m)any women,
    suggest some and don’t agree to speak until they filled out the roster a
    little more. I have heard one good rule of thumb (which I try to
    follow) is not appear on a panel unless at least one woman is also on
    the panel. Help give other voices a chance to be heard.

    I proposed the following:

    I’m going to opine the following: We will never have diversity be considered important in the Oscar race until the Oscar nominees have
    the gumption to, as a group, refuse to accept their nominations unless they are part of a diverse group of nominees. Until that happens, they are just passing the buck, considering diversity to be someone else’s problem.

    In *every* category, there is sufficient talent out there to nominate a diverse field of candidates. Not having diversity is a statement
    about those in charge, who their friends are, and the diversity of the circles they operate in. Working diverse breeds diversity.
    Writing diverse breeds diversity. The Oscar field not being diverse is a statement, reflection, and indictment of the industry as a whole. The
    cinema (just like the theater) must reflect and tell the stories of society as a whole. Making that happen takes strength of character and
    strong resolve, having principles and insisting on them, both in the on-camera talent, the behind the camera crew, and in the stories.

    So, I’ll say it again: We will never have diversity be considered important in the Oscar race until the Oscar nominees have the gumption
    to, as a group, refuse to accept their nominations unless they are part of a diverse group of nominees. Until that happens, they are just passing the buck, considering diversity to be someone else’s problem.

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  • Umm having attended the Oscars twice in my life, I know for a fact black folk as whole don’t really watch nor attend the Oscars nor Emmys as much as they might the BET and Image Awards. However, i disagree with you about people watching the red carpet more than they do the actual show.

    People are there for THE SHOW! Although there are shows dedicated to red carpet, it’s not the main attraction because people want to see who wins.

    Due to various broadcast rights you only get to see the Oscars in its entirety once.

    So It may appear people watch the red carpet more because the press can replay interviews now on websites, blogs, and YouTube ad nauseam. And the we as consumers continually replay and share those snippets for several days after.

    And as far as black folk boycotting the Oscars goes. Most black actors weren’t going to the show anyway because 1. They weren’t nominated 2. They aren’t presenting 3. It’s more fun going to the after parties where there’s plenty of free food and liquor, better networking opportunities, and very limited press inside. Just as with any award show, if you’re not nominated or presenting you aren’t that pressed to be there. Awards shows are a lot of work.

    Lastly, you’re right about the white friends of black actors using their influence to change things. But again what people don’t understand is attending the Oscars is WORK for many of them! And when actors don’t work, guess who else doesn’t get paid…agents, managers, assistants, chefs, etc.

  • You may be surprised to know that over the years that whites, Latinos, and even the LGBT community have all been nominated for Image awards. And a few may have won over the years. Secondly, the Image Awards are produced by the Hollywood Bureau or chapter and don’t just represent movies. The Academy is dedicated to film and actors. The NAACP Image Awards has similar categories but awards people in non-film and TV categories too. Unfortunately, those are not televised.

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  • slink61

    There is no such thing as race, at least not based on biology. Race is a socially constructed category used to perpetuate a system of power and control over a subjugated group classified based on the fiction of race. RACISM is very real and would not exist without RACE.

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  • D’Fwan

    Thank you Markeysha, this was very interesting to read, I appreciate you taking the time to write such an interesting and kind response. I love history, and i think this was one of the best comments I’ve ever been fascinated/interested by – and it really helped me wrap my head around these questions I’ve had for years, like Human101.

    I’m not interested in award shows, period. I realize people like to be recognized, but using a statue given by some random group of voters, to me does not quantify talent or ability. I dont know who these voters are, I dont care who they are, I dont care who they give their awards to, and I wont watch their show. I’m sure if I’d been a racial minority interested in the Oscars, I’d be disappointed, but I’m just embarrassed by award shows in general, and wont watch them. I think Hollywood in general has too much power over society. I wish they televised award shows for people that worked hard at being kind to one another, instead of rich overpaid people who play pretend for a living.

  • D’Fwan

    Everyone should boycott every year, awards are lame.

  • Tyndon Clusters

    Jasmyne, I will join you on the Oscar boycott bandwagon if you will also join me when I protest the Soul Train Awards since NOT ONE WHITE PERSON has been nominated for the last 14 years!!!!

    Also, the NBA banquet awards too, since NOT ONE WHITE GUY since Larry Bird has been nominated as best player…and that was 25 years ago.

  • Tyndon Clusters

    Uh oh, I stand corrected. Steve Nash was the other white guy in the last 25 years.

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  • Karen

    Look how long that took! And that’s just recently.

  • Human101

    I concur (If that’s how you spell it..;))

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  • Topcat

    Outstanding! Outstanding! Outstanding #