#OscarsSoWhite is trending for the second year in a row after the Academy chose all white nominees, again. People took to social media to point out the lack of nominees of color, despite incredible performances this year in such films as “Beasts of No Nation” (Idris Elba), “Creed” (Michael B. Jordan), and “Concussion” (Will Smith). Apparently someone listened, and the promise is that we will have a more diverse group to select next year, and perhaps a more diverse group of nominees.
But let’s face it, folks. This is a bigger issue than an awards ceremony. That doesn’t mean we (non-POC allies) shouldn’t push for the normalization of a diverse board and nominees. The trickle-down effect could (and most likely will) be beneficial. But if we’re actually going to change things, we’re have to change the way we tell stories – and who’s telling them.
This means being honest about our past, and acknowledging its effect on the present. Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking that we’ve progressed far beyond the racist attitudes and beliefs that our ancestors held to.
In many ways, we haven’t. Racism is alive and well. We’ve only had one president of color. There are very few people of color in positions of authority in government, business, or education. People of color are killed by those in authority or those who have been taught to hate. And most of our storytellers, even the ones who report what’s happening to people of color, are white (and usually male).
Communication and education have always been two of the biggest issues when confronting those in power and overturning wrong thinking. Without the ability to communicate, prisoners languish in solitude. Without education, we cannot fight lies with the truth.
Now that we have a way to communicate in the form of social media, and many of us have an access to information at our fingertips, and we can combat the injustice we see in our world. This is why social media and the web are so powerful. It’s a non-violent protest, broadcast world-wide. There’s power in a host of voices.
But we need to change who’s telling those stories too. We need more diverse stories. We need to support storytellers who are outside the mainstream. We need to be able to provide potential storytellers with the tools to become great. President Obama said as much in his interview for Live From The White House on January 27th, where he stated, “…I think the Oscar debate is really just an expression of this broader issue. Are we making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot?”
We have to start from the ground up, combatting racism in our own homes and neighborhoods and movie theaters. We non-POC allies need to support people of color involved in Hollywood and awards shows like this year’s presenter Chris Rock, and up-and-coming actors like John Boyega, Quvenzhane Wallis, Lupita Nyong’o, Nicole Beharie, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
What does this look like? It might be as simple as following people of color on YouTube, buying Star Wars Merchandise depicting John Boyega’s Finn, and of course, spreading the world about upcoming talent, or renting something we might have missed but wanted to see, promoting and supporting up-and-coming projects featuring people of color. All of these things can be done simply using our voices and the internet; society can sway the present and make a better future.
Perhaps most important is for us to talk about these issues with friends and family. Do your best to root out your own culturally-inherited racism, and strive to do better than your forbears. We can help eradicate racism. It might not end in our lifetimes, but we need to start somewhere so that future storytellers don’t have to remain silent. The world needs their stories.