If you have not seen the videos I will give you the cliff notes to catch you up. I am paraphrasing, Jada Pinkett-Smith in a very well it, mellow timbered plea suggest that the black community stop asking for love and recognition from mainstream environments like the Oscars but instead pool our vast resources and start doing us. We should boycott the upcoming 88th Academy Awards ceremony on February 28, 2016, in a cultural show of solidarity. The movement has given birth to the hash-tag #OscarsSoWhite.
Then we have an impassioned response from blacktress Janet Hubert in a video that is back lit, and dripping with caustic fervor. Hubert basically puts Jada on blast that blacks folks have other things to worry about and for expecting black talent to jeopardize their careers by participating in such a public boycott. Hubert also points out the suspect timing and hypocrisy of the Smith’s decision to boycott this year when Will Smith’s performance in Concussion was overlooked yet the power couple have had no historical issues with earning millions in their association with the very same folks and industry that you now want the rest of us to link arms in protest based on your call to action.
Well the historical beef and bitterness of Hubert aside both women actually have valid arguments but I need to clarify some points. Hubert is right that the black community has plenty of things to worry about but we can also prioritize our causes. And where as we applaud the Smith’s for being awakened to race issues in Hollywood we also have to ask, “Where you been?”
The academy is responsible for voting on the best work and has an African-American woman as president but its members are 94% white and 77% male so can you honestly expect such a homogenized group to appropriately assess the merit of narratives from other cultural perspectives? The academy recently stated they are committed to doubling the number of women and minorities by 2020. Given their present stats that is not really saying much.
Hollywood has always been lack in acknowledging the talent of marginalized communities. Black folks are being vocal but what about Latin, Asian, Native American and other under represented groups? And even when we are acknowledged it is under the same rigid narratives like slave and domestic. Case in point Hattie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind and fast forward to Octavia Spencer as yet another domestic in The Help and Best Picture, 12 Years a Slave.
It is because of this fact that I have stop watching and participating in mainstream awards shows like the Oscars and I hate to break it to the Hollywood A listers but a lot of black folks have also abandoned the practice. I mean the last time I watched an actual Oscar show was the historical night in which Denzel Washington and Halle Berry received Oscars. And even then the roles the academy deemed honorable were questionable in their,again, limited narratives. I mean you could not honor Denzel’s portrayal of black civil rights leader Malcolm X but instead co sign the narrative of crooked cop? You ignore the affirming role Halle Berry delivered of black Hollywood film star and siren Dorothy Dandridge but instead co sign the role of broken, black woman who sexes up a racist prison guard after her husband is executed.
To Jada’s point about investing in our own we have done that already and contrary to what folks like Stacey Dash may think of entities like BET that affirm black culture,(Nice shade from BET by running Dash’s old videos on the network to remind her of her humble cultural beginnings) we have a host of culturally specific awards shows like The N.A.A.C.P. Awards, The Essence Awards, The Source Awards, The BET Awards and more recently Black Girls Rock. But how many times do you remember sitting through some of these awards shows and a prominent artist wins an award but does not even show up to accept, like they are too big and busy to thank the community that started, stuck with and yes, even when slighted still support them?
I admire that some of the black talent in Hollywood finally want to be conscious to the struggle but they might be a bit late as the rest of us have moved on.