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The diversity battle: and the Oscar goes to...

Posted by
25 Jan 2016
Earlier this week the Academy Awards made waves in the news, and for all the wrong reasons; this years’ nominees were announced and for the second year running only “white” actors were nominated within the major acting categories.

Whilst some may presume this was an innocent mistake on the Academy’s part, further evidence to highlight prejudicial nominations was highlighted when Sylvester Stallone was nominated for his role in Creed as best supporting actor, whilst his colleague of African American descent, Michael B. Jordan, was overlooked for the gong despite being the lead in the movie and being nominated for a Golden Globe. Although this year’s show will be hosted by African American comedian Chris Rock, it appears a lack of diversity still exists within one of the most elite organisations.  

In response, fellow thespian, Jada Pinkett-Smith (and wife of Will Smith, another snubbed actor), has since announced she will boycott attending the awards and not even watch the show from home stating;
“Maybe it is time that we pull back our resources and we put them back into our communities and our programs and we make programs for ourselves that acknowledge us in ways that we see fit, that are just as good as the so-called 'mainstream' ones.”

Others in the film industry have followed suit and called for more action be done in the inclusion of minorities. However, Pinkett-Smith comments prompt a much different conversation as she suggests the black community “should acknowledge us in ways that we see is fit”. Surely by adopting this kind of attitude she segregates minorities even further?   

Since the situation caused a furore in the press, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of The Academy has vowed to review its membership recruitment in a bid to improve the lack of diversity within academy members. This is further highlighted by a study conducted in 2012 which found that black filmmakers accounted for mere 2 per cent of the Academy, whilst Latino’s made up less than 2 per cent.

Sadly, such figures are not only reflective of the film industry but also of a multitude of workforces. For instance in late 2015 there were only four non-white executives of FTSE 100 companies, a significant under-representation when compared with 14 percent of the wider population.

Whilst basing discrimination on statistics and percentages might not always be accurate, it’s an indication that a lack of diversity still exists in the workforce. In recent years, a number of acts have been passed to ensure a more diverse workforce is represented, the most prominent of which is the Equality Act 2010. The act aims to legally protect people from discrimination in the workplace and in the wider society, focusing on preventing bias related to age, sex, disability and race relations. Affirmative Action is another initiative which aims to ensure a certain percentage or racial quotas are filled by ethnic minorities and has also sparked debate. Some have argued that such programmes fly in the face of meritocracy and recognition should be based on talent and skill rather than attempting to conform to the political correctness that dominates today’s societies.    

The same however cannot be said for the Academy Awards in which is clear that there is an abundance of talent within the arts, including many non-white racial heritage who (whether intentionally or not) are being passed over for Caucasian talent.

What are your thoughts on the Academy's stance on diversity? Do you think more should more action should be taken to include minorities. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below...
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