Is it 2016, or 1970? Much has changed in the 45-plus years since I launched black enterprise magazine. But one look at the annual nominations for the Academy Awards a.k.a. the Oscars, shows that Hollywood, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in particular, remains as dangerously out of place in today's world as the fictional dinosaurs of the Jurassic Park film franchise.
The dinosaur analogy is even more apt when you consider that the Academy, which is 94% white and 77% male, boasts a median age of 62 years old. After all, the heads of Hollywood's major studios often share the same values and legacy of myopic, self-entitled exclusion and white male privilege.
By now, we are all well aware of the lack of recognition, year after year (with rare exceptions), of African Americans for the top Academy Awards, including the Best Director and Best Actor Oscars. This despite an abundance of films, including Creed and Straight Outta Compton, featuring black lead actors and directors that earned both critical acclaim and box-office success last year. The Academy repeatedly demonstrates its collective belief that black actors and directors, even after earning the opportunity to perform and doing so with excellence, are not worthy of recognition.
This is about far more than who gets idolized on the red carpet and handed a trophy on Oscar night. The Academy Awards is a representation and reflection of decisions about who gets cast in what roles; which movies get made and which do not; how much budget will be devoted to developing, producing, and marketing a film; and when and where films are released--all of which impacts who makes money and achieves success in Hollywood. All of these decisions are made almost exclusively by white men--with hardly a thought, much less an effective effort--to bring people of color into the pipeline to move the needle on diversity in the industry.
The lack of recognition of African American talent in front of the camera is merely a reflection of a deeper and more entrenched exclusion of African Americans throughout the Hollywood studio establishment. Despite an increasingly racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse America (and movie-going public), African Americans...