Will a Diversified Academy Make #OscarsSoWhite a Thing of the Past?

Despite the 774 additions to the Academy voting crew, racism and sexism at the Oscars won't just disappear

A golden Oscar award on a colourful blue and yellow background; Inline image

(Photo: iStock)

Earlier this week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the addition of 774 new members to their exclusive club. It’s the biggest class yet and features new additions like Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Priyanka Chopra (Quantico), Riz Ahmed (Rogue One, The Night Of), Donald Glover (Community and Atlanta) and Jordan Peele (Get Out)—providing they accept the invitation.

In an effort to be more inclusive and break up its “straight white boys’ club,” the Academy’s 2017 class is 30 percent people of colour and 39 percent female. Those numbers represent huge growth for both demographics since 2015, the year when #OscarsSoWhite first gained traction.

April Reign created the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag to call out the serious lack of gender and racial representation in the Academy and in Oscar nominations and wins. The tweet that started it all back in January 2015 reads: “#OscarsSoWhite they asked to touch my hair.”

The Academy revealed their nominations in January for the 2017 Oscars—which, compared to earlier years, featured more women and people of colour—and reignited the conversation around the industry’s commitment to diversity.

Among this year’s winning casts and films, Moonlight, Hidden Figures and Fences paved the way for greater racial representation in years to come. But Hollywood’s diversity problem is far from over. Despite the Academy’s most recent move, people are still skeptical—and using that hashtag.

Chris Rock, this year’s Oscars host, addressed #OscarsSoWhite during his opening monologue. He joked, “I’m here at the Academy Awards; otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards,” and pointed out, “Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood’s racist.”

Comedian Chris Rock, this years host of the Oscars, saying, "I'm here at the Academy Awards; otherwise known as the White People's Choice Awards"

(Source: Giphy)

Actor and comedian Chris Rock at the 2017 Oscars saying, "Is Hollywood racist? You're damn right Hollywood's Racist"

(Source: Giphy)

Rock went on to analyze Hollywood’s racism: its the quieter kind—the kind, he said, that acknowledges people of colour on one level, but not on the same as white people. “Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, ‘We like you, Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.’ That’s how Hollywood is,” he said.

Rock’s monologue foreshadowed what was to come later that evening. To many, #OscarsStillSoWhite was further exemplified by this year’s mishap when La La Land—featuring a mostly white cast—was wrongly pronounced winner of Best Picture. The award eventually went to its rightful winner: Moonlight, which featured a mostly black cast.

The irony of this mistake wasn’t lost on Twitter users, and the lack of diversity was still a point of concern.

When it comes down to it, the increase of gender and racial representation in the Academy sends the message that the stories of women and people of colour matter. But racism does not just disappear. Actions speak louder than words.

Let’s hope the 2018 Oscars—backed by the most diverse Academy in history—will acknowledge demographics that have been, until now, widely ignored.

Actress Lupita Nyong'o accepting her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, saying, "No matter where you're from, your dreams are valid"

(Source: Giphy)

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