Garrett Morgan’s invention of the stoplight in 1923 was larger than just keeping our roadways safe. Jackie Robinson being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962 was larger than just baseball. Guion Stewart “Guy” Bluford Jr. being the first black astronaut in 1983 to travel to space was larger than one trip to the moon. And Will Smith, Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett-Smith boycotting the Oscars is definitely more important than an 8-inch, 24-karat gold statue.
February 28 will mark the 88th annual Academy Awards, and since 1929, 132 black people have been nominated for an award. Of that number, only 32 have won, which means out of the 2,947 golden statues handed out, only 1 percent are represented by people of color.
And that 1 percent is on its way to a precipitous decline as we approach this year’s awards, as it will be the second-straight year with no black nominees.
The decision of those such Will Smith, who decided not to attend the awards this year, has been met with stern opposition. Janet Hubert, otherwise known for her role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as “Aunt Viv,” said in a video on her Facebook page that instead of worrying about the Oscars, people should be more concerned with the fact that “people are dying, our boys are being shot left and right … people are trying to pay bills and you talking about some … actors and Oscars.”
Actress Stacey Dash, who played Dee in Clueless, also made controversial comments on Fox News, stating, “If we don’t want segregation then we need to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the Image Awards … just like there shouldn’t be a Black History Month.”
I disagree with Dash, and here’s why.
In an interview with Robin Roberts, Will Smith stated, “I have to protect and fight for the ideals that make our country and make our Hollywood community great. So, when I look at the series of nominations of the Academy, it’s not reflecting that beauty.”
This beauty that he speaks about is America’s diversity. That’s what makes America so great.
When you’re ignorant and don’t have all of the essentials to make a sophisticated proclamation, you do things like stick your foot in your mouth, and that’s what those like “Aunt Viv” have done by speaking out without understanding the deeper meaning of their rhetorical actions.
During 2001s 75th Oscars, Halle Berry gave an award speech in which she said she saw what she believed to be a door being opened in Hollywood, not just for men of color, but for women of color as well.
“This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll … it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door has been opened,” she said.
But unfortunately for Berry, that door is closing faster than MLK’s three most polarizing words, “I have a dream.”
In a world without superheroes, movie stars are our shimmering figures. When you don’t see your heroes win after conveying characters that relate, inspire and encourage you to push beyond stereotypical black caricatures that attempt to bind you, you then question the reality of an “American dream.”
ALI taught us to fight. Pursuit of Happyness taught us to persevere. The Defiant Ones taught us how a black man and a white man can form a bond. And 12 Years a Slave showed us what real strength and courage is.
These films had a significant social message, and all of these films were nominated by the Academy and one of them, 12 Years a Slave, actually won.
President of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, has since responded to the issue by implementing the A2020, a plan to have complete diversity within the Academy.
I’m led to believe that the Academy should do the right thing and switch seats with those in Hollywood most connected to society — the actual studios.
Will Smith said it best: “The industry reflects America, it reflects the series of challenges that we are having in our country at the moment.”
Christopher Davis is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on twitter at @ChristopherDTV or email him at ChristopherD@CentralFloridaFuture.com