‘6.4% of acting nominations of the total 1,668 since the awards began in 1929 have gone to non-white actors’.


This is a shocking statistic, and although we all know of the two-year drought that caused the Academy a lot of controversy (no black nominees at all), the actual percentage of nominations, not even winners, of minority actors is something that still comes as a surprise. To me, it is absolutely ridiculous that we are in 2018 and black people still wait with baited breath to see the nominees for every major award show, wondering if they are going to be deemed worthy of being honoured.

I am sick and tired of seeing the ‘first black person’ to do this and that, because they are definitely not the first to deserve it. I do not think that anyone can make a solid argument that white people are generally better actors, directors, or screenwriters. I think it is clear that the lack of representation of minorities in these awards shows is a justifiable sign of continuing racism. Black people have been making films for a long time now, and although there are a lot of African-American nominees this year in almost every major category (two in the Lead Actor category, and one in the Supporting Actress category), I would like everybody to stop thanking the Oscars.

I do not think they suddenly woke up and realised the talent. I think they are just more aware now of needing to make an effort not to seem discriminatory, given the inevitable backlash that comes with it.

The root of the problem however seems to lie in the Academy itself, amongst whose ‘6,000-odd voting members, 94% […] are white’.

A few of the nominees to take notice of this year are: Get Out for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay; Jordan Peele for Best Director and Daniel Kaluuya for Best Actor for the same film; Mary J. Blige for Mudbound and; Octavia Spencer for Best Supporting Actress in one of this year’s Oscar favourites, The Shape of Water.

Now for a bit of history on past African-American winners. In 1939, Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American to win an Academy Award (Best Supporting Actress for Gone with the Wind). As Martin Luther King Jr. was only ten years old at the time, this does seem to put the Oscars miles ahead of the racist society of the time. Ethel Waters was nominated for this same category ten years later. However, the first African-American to be nominated for Best Actress/Actor was Dorothy Dandridge for Carmen Jones, and that was not until 1954. This would suggest that there was not a single black person in over a decade that put on a performance worthy enough for even a nomination. Now, I think we can all agree that the only way this could be plausible is if no black movies were produced at the time, but given that there were, this does strike as being odd.

It is funny how the whole world complained about Leonardo DiCaprio getting robbed year after year by the Academy. I completely agree, but it is saddening that it is so acceptable for black people to be overlooked; that nobody bothers to have the same outrage.

It could be argued that the Oscars are becoming more racially egalitarian, but I do not buy it. Year after year, they face backlash and put in some token black nominees. I feel that they were being extra prudent this year and put so many minority nominees to avoid racism charges, especially given the strong turnout by so many black-themed movies and actors in 2017. It is also quite obvious that the rise of the power of social media, and the boycotting by prominent African-American actors over the years, has played a major roles in forcing the Academy’s hand.

The Oscars is a clear example of what we see everywhere. Black people have to be more than great, they have to be out of this world to be placed on the same level as white people who are ‘ordinarily good’ (and sometimes, black excellence gets the same attention as white mediocrity). Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar for her performance in Dreamgirls, and this illustrates my point well. That was one of the best performances I have ever watched in my life, and it shows how much better you have to be, as a black woman, to be placed on the same level as others that have just not done as much. To clarify, this is not to say that white actors and actresses that have won Oscars in the past are not amazing performers as well. I am merely saying that one could mention various performances that were nowhere near as good as Jennifer Hudson’s in Dreamgirls, but that have gotten so much more recognition.

Oscars 2018 is not a triumph for the black acting minority, despite the array of black nominations. Rather, the Academy is finally doing what they should have been doing for years, and although that is pleasing to see, the minority actors should not feel too grateful for getting the recognition they so rightly deserve after decades of being sidelined.