Why the Oscars are White

21 Jan

Last year was the first year I remember there being a wide unrest about the “colour” of the Oscars. Hashtags abounded. This year, there has been a stir as well – including an amazing video by Jada Pinkett Smith where she talks about it maybe being time to stop asking to be included, because it makes us small.

Here are a few thoughts, from my D&I lens:

The Oscars are white because that’s how bias and unconscious bias work. The colour (and gender) of the nominees (and the winners) should come as no surprise given that the Academy is 93% white, 76 percent male and an average age of 63 (stats taken from an article in Toronto’s Metro News from Friday January 15, 2016).

I’m not saying it’s ok, I’m just saying it makes sense. Here’s why.

First, the age. People in their 60’s were born in the 1950’s. The U.S. civil rights movement was beginning, but it took time for people to see each other as equal. We’re still working on it, by the way.

So when we consider this, it’s no surprise that 93% of the people they attract and bring into the Academy are white. In addition to personal bias, unconscious bias means that we lean towards (figuratively) people who we even think we have something in common with (to read more, check out Blind Spot). Skin colour is obvious, so it can be a powerful common denominator. Same for gender.

What I’m saying then, is that unless the people inside the Academy change, the nominees aren’t likely to change, and the winners aren’t likely to change to be reflective of the population and the vast talent among non-white and female actors. Unless the Academy becomes more diverse (and inclusive) that vast talent will not be recognized, simply because actors of colour and female actors will just not be on the radar in the same way, with the same respect and true recognition. Their work will not be valued or appreciated in the same way. They will be seen, but not really noticed.

Sometimes we need to start something new, because there are too many barriers to progress in the way things have always been. Who says the Oscars have to continue to tell us the who’s who of Hollywood? That’s another example of taking on “the way it is” without asking questions (like “why?” and “who says so?”). Maybe we could, as Jada Pinkett Smith suggested, rethink how we value diversity and DO something about it, rather than complaining about what isn’t happening.

Just saying.

See more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

Radio Show Host – Creating Families



One Response to “Why the Oscars are White”

  1. Shawne Duperon January 22, 2016 at 6:20 pm #

    Exquisite.. thank you for sharing this insight.

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