FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hollywood and Race

by Rev. JESSE JACKSON, Jr.

This Sunday, nearly 40 million people are likely to tune in to see who captures an Oscar at the annual Academy Awards ceremonies. Winning the award can add millions to a film’s box office and supercharge the career of an actor, director, screenwriter or editor. According to the Academy’s 2009-10 fiscal year tax filing, the Oscars generated $81.3 million in revenue. This is a big deal.

It is avidly watched by the moviegoing population of this sprawling and diverse nation of more than 300 million people, and by millions more around the world. Hollywood sets styles, captures imaginations, touches dreams. Worldwide, movies provide people with much of what they think about America.

Yet, the 5,765 voting members of the Academy are far from representative of the moviegoing public. They are more akin to the old packed juries of the segregated South. A remarkable investigation by Los Angeles Times reporters pierced the screen of secrecy to reveal that the voting members are a stunning 94 percent Caucasian and 77 percent male. Only 2 percent are African American, and less than 2 percent are Latino. Their median age is 62, and only 14 percent are younger than 50.

The Academy’s leaders say the organization is trying to do better, but it is hard to see any evidence of that. Since 2004, the names of 1,000 invitees have been published: 89 percent white, and 73 percent male. The 43 member Academy Board of Governors has all of six women, one of whom is the sole person of color. The Academy’s executive branch is 98 percent white, as is its writers branch. Corporate boardrooms do better than that.

Defenders of the Academy say its membership reflects a combination of legacy (memberships are for life) and achievement. But the sad reality is that the membership reflects hiring patterns that are equally skewed. The Times story quotes writer/editor Phil Auden Robinson, who concludes: “If the industry as a whole is not doing a great job in opening up its ranks, it’s very hard for us to diversify our membership.”

Not surprisingly, the voting tends to reflect the composition of the voters. In the 83 years of the Academy, the Times reports, only 4 percent of Oscars have been awarded to an African American. Only one woman has received the award for directing.

In 2011, not a single minority person was among the 45 nominees for the major awards: best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, director, original and adapted screenplay. More astounding, the Academy failed to identify even one black male presenter for the awards. African-American actors were not only shut out of the awards; they were shut out of the attention that comes from presenting them.

This year, at least, minorities will not be shut out. Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Mexican-born Demian Bichir will contend for major acting awards.

It is long past time for the industry to open up and for the Academy to reach out. It was long past time back in 1996 when the Rainbow Coalition organized a nationwide protest over the lack of minority Oscar nominees. Women and minorities dream of becoming directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors just as white men do. Young talent drives Hollywood and our popular culture more than the established older generation. And Hollywood’s audience across the country and around the world is young and diverse.

Hollywood defines what is hip. But when it comes to diversity, the Academy is about 50 years behind the times.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson is founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail