It feels like Groundhog Day. This morning, the Oscar nominations were announced and for the second year in a row, all of the top acting nominations–20 of them–did not include any non-white actors.
Sure there were some serious opportunities to make this year’s nominees a little more inclusive–Idris Elba and Abraham Attah deserved to be nominated for Beasts of No Nation, for example–but once again the Academy failed.
However, the reason the Oscars are so overwhelmingly white for a second year in a row is deeper than just overlooking a few great performances; the system itself is rigged.
When Viola Davis became the first Black woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama last year, she didn’t just use the opportunity to thank her family and fans, she called Hollywood out, too.
“The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” Davis told the audience. “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
The same goes for the Academy Awards. While we’ve been focused on how painfully white the Oscar nominations have been these last two years, the truth is they will continue to be hella achromatic because the opportunities for writers, directors, and actors of color in prominent roles are so few and far between.
Yes, Straight Out of Compton, Creed, and Beasts Of No Nation could have garnered Best Picture nods, but they are just three of the nearly 500 films released theatrically last year. And Yes, Elba, Attah, Michael B. Jordan, and Tessa Thompson deserved nominations, but they are just a tiny fraction of the actors who were blessed with meaty, complicated roles.
If the Academy, and Hollywood at large, wants to stop being called out for being so damn white it will need to get serious about supporting and cultivating executives, filmmakers, and actors of color. But as my mother always says, that’s too much like right.