Are the Academy Awards really racist?

Is the Academy of Motion Pictures racist one year, only to overcome its racism the next year and then revert back to racism again the following year?

As host for the 2016 Academy Awards ceremony and show, comedian Chris Rock really let Hollywood have it. (Photo via Wikipedia, taken in 2012 by David Shankbone, CC 3.0)

SAN DIEGO, March 12, 2016 —It’s been two weeks since the 88th annual Academy Awards telecast, but the entertainment world is still abuzz. Since no African-Americans were nominated this year, the academy has been accused of racism. People watched the 2016 telecast with anticipation and perhaps a sense of foreboding, wondering if this disturbing turn of events would be highlighted or ignored during the awards presentation.

Predictably, host Chris Rock did address this lightning-charged topic. But few would have guessed that he would barely talk about anything else.

Meanwhile, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences President, Cheryl Boone Isaacs has also spoken out, promising more diversity. More diversity? How exactly will they  pull this off? Will there be affirmative action embedded in the annual ballots? Will members of  the Academy be forced to nominate one African-American candidate before they can nominate anyone else? Will such a trend force them to follow suit for Latinos, Asians and others? Time will tell.

All that has been promised so far is that the academy will  “conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.”

By the way: Big elephant in the room: President Cheryl Boone is herself African-American. How did that happen? How did the same academy that banned black nominees vote in an African-American president?

In addition, the only reason Chris Rock was on TV pontificating is that he had been asked to host the awards long before the nominations even came out. So how did racist Hollywood ever think of contacting Chris Rock and inviting him to play such a prominent role on its annual live presentation?

Of course, a much larger question begs to be asked, inasmuch as African-Americans have not only been nominated for Academy Awards in previous years – they have won many times.

So how do we explain this? Is the Academy racist one year, only to overcome its racism the next year and then revert back to racism again the following year?

Worse, sometimes, when there is an award given to an African American, we hear a speech as if it were the very first time such an event has ever happened.

Halle Berry won the Academy Award for Best Actress during the 2002 awards show for the previous year, 2001. She stopped the music which is designed as a cue for the award winners to wrap up their speeches.

“It’s been 74 years, I’ve got to take this time.”

74 years? She must have forgotten that Sidney Poitier won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Lilies of the Field in 1963 and that Denzel Washington won Best Supporting Actor for Glory in 1989, long before he won again, (this time, Best Actor) for Training Day on the very same night Hallie won her Oscar.

There have also been other African-American wins in the academy’s history:

  • Lou Gosset Jr., An Officer and a Gentleman, 1982
  • Cuba Gooding Jr.,  Jerry McGuire, 1996
  • Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby, 2004
  • Jamie Fox, Ray, 2004
  • Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland, 2006

Not to mention the numerous times African-Americans were nominated. In fact, Morgan Freeman was nominated for Driving Miss Daisy, the same year Washington won for Glory.

Here are some  other African-American nominees from the past:

  • James Earl Jones, The Great White Hope, 1970
  • Paul Winfield, Sounder, 1971
  • Dexter Gordon, Round Midnight, 1986
  • Denzel Washington, Malcolm X, 1989
  • Laurence Fishburne, What’s Love Got to Do With It? 1993
  • Will Smith, Ali, 2001
  • Morgan Freeman, Invictus, 2009
  • Denzel Washington, Flight, 2012
  • Chiwetel Ejo, 12 years a Slave, 2004
  • Robert Crossee, The Reivers, 1969
  • Howard Rollins, Ragtime, 1981
  • Adolph Caesar, A Soldier’s Story, 1984
  • Morgan Freeman, Street Smart, 1987
  • Jaye Davidson, The Crying Game, 1992
  • Samuel Jackson, Pulp Fiction, 1994
  • Michael Clark Duncan, The Green Mile, 1999
  • Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond, 2006
  • Eddie Murphy, Dream Girls, 2006

Oh wait! Those were only men! Maybe Halle was thinking it was high time the academy honored an African-American woman. Well, they already had.

Whoopee Goldberg won Best Supporting Actress for Ghost in 1990. Not that this was all that new or novel of an idea either. As far back as 1939, when the Oscars hadn’t even been around for that long, Hattie McDaniel won Best Supporting Actress for Gone With the Wind.

And the trend continued long after Halle Berry’s big evening. In more recent years, the award of Best Supporting Actress has gone to:

  • Jennifer Hudson, 2006, Dreamgirls
  • Mo Nique, Precious, 2009
  • Octavia Spencer, The Help, 2011
  • Lupita Nyongo, 12 Years a Slave, 2013

Those were just the winners.What about nominations? There have been a few:

  • 1949: Ethel Waters, Pinky
  • 1959: Juanita Moore, Imitation of Life
  • 1967: Beah Richards, Guess Whose Coming To Dinner
  • 1983: Alfre Woodard, Cross Creek
  • 1985: Margaret Avery, The Color Purple; same year, same film, Oprah Winfrey
  • 1996: Marianne Jean Baptiste, Secrets and Lies
  • 2002: Queen Latifah, Chicago
  • 2004: Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda
  • 2007: Ruby Lee, American Gangster
  • 2007: Viola Davis, Doubt
  • 2008: Taraji Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Maybe in the minds of some, “Supporting Actress” doesn’t mean a whole lot. Maybe that’s why it was special when Hallie won the higher category of  “Best Actress,” period!

Oh sure, several black men had already won “Best Actor,” but now it was a woman. Of course ,there had been many African-American women nominated for the exact same award.

A nomination, incidentally means these women were considered one of the five best actresses of the year. Women such as:

  • Dorthy Dandridge, Carmen Jones, 1954
  • Diana Ross, Lady Sings the Blues, 1972; same year: Cicely Tyson Sounder
  • Diahann Carroll Claudine, 1974
  • Whoopie Goldberg, The Color Purple, 1985
  • Angela Bassett, What’s Love Got To Do With It? 1993
  • Gabourey Sidibe, Precious, 2009
  • Viola Davis, The Help, 2011
  • Quzenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild, 2012

Have there been less African-American awards and nominations than the amount for white people? Of course. White people outnumber African-Americans in Hollywood and the entire country. But this same white majority voted for and nominated African-Americans many, many times, to the exclusion of the white majority they might have picked from. That’s a whole different way to look at this.

By the way, it’s not like the dominant liberals in Hollywood didn’t vote twice for an African-American President of the United States, either. So they vote for a black president but they go out of their way to snub black actors? Is that the way it works? Does that make any kind of sense? Only in the world of Political Correctness.

Perhaps it’s time to  take a simpler approach and throw out a modest little theory, an “emperor isn’t wearing any clothes” type of theory:

Is it possible, just remotely possible, that when academy members vote, they aren’t thinking about skin color? That they are instead thinking about what was the best picture or the best performance?

This is  Bob Siegel, making the obvious, obvious.

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Bob Siegel
A graduate of Denver Seminary and San Jose State University, Bob Siegel is a radio talk show host and popular guest speaker at churches and college campuses across the country, using a variety of media including, seminars, formal debates, outdoor open forums, and one man drama presentations. In addition to his own weekly radio show (KCBQ 1170, San Diego) Bob has been a guest on many other programs, including The 700 Club, Washington Times Radio's Inside the Story, The Rick Amato Show, KUSI Television's Good Morning San Diego, and the world popular Jonathan Parkradio drama series, for which Bob guest starred in two episodes and wrote one episode, The Clue From Ninevah. In addition to CDN, Bob is a regular contributor for San Diego Rostra. Bob does a good deal of playwriting as well (14 plays & 5 collaborations), including the award winning, Eternal Reach. Bob has also published books of both fiction and non-fiction including; I'd Like to Believe In Jesus, But...and a fantasy novel, The Dangerous Christmas Ornament.