THE BLOG
01/22/2016 10:18 am ET Updated Jan 22, 2017

The American Shame: The Academy and Its Lack of Diversity

Ok so before I go into the topic of #OscarsSoWhite and where we are in 2016, I as a political person, like to dig deep into the mechanics behind the problem. So I want to share with you the mission behind the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, all of which can be found on Oscars.org.

According to the website, its mission is to recognize and uphold excellence in the motion picture arts and sciences, inspire imagination, and connect the world through the medium of motion pictures. Sounds good thus far. The website also states that its comprised of 7,000+ accomplished men and women working in cinema. So there are over 7,000 members who represent the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences [1].

I went to dig a little deeper and again, all of this is on the website. I took a look at their Board of Governors, and their role is to direct the Academy's strategic vision, preserve the organization's financial health, and assure the fulfillment of its mission. Each governor serves a 3-year term and they can only serve a maximum of 3 consecutive three-year terms for a total of 9 years. Now we know that Ms. Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the current and first African-American and the third woman to serve in this capacity. Now in taking a look at her executive board there is a total of 8 officers. Ms. Boone is the ONLY person of color on the executive board. In looking at the governors, there are 51 of them, ONLY one person of color serves in the governors and that is the current president of the Academy, Ms. Cheryl Boone Isaacs. Looking at the governing administration of the Academy, Dawn Hudson serves as the CEO and on her team, NO PERSON OF COLOR [2[. The first notion behind its lack of diversity.

I also took a look at what it takes to become a member of the Academy that votes for the people who will be nominated for that prestigious statue in the various categories that the Academy honors and recognizes; it is an extremely complicated process that I feel is intended to make it next to impossible to become one, thus it's the 2nd reason behind its lack of diversity.

Let's take a look at the stats in accordance to LA Times research; 94% of the Academy is White, only 6% is other (which is sad because that 6% is no true diversity). The median age for members of the academy is 62 years old; it is 77% male and 23% female. Executive and writers in the Academy are 98% white; Cinematographers and visual effects members of the Academy are 95% male [3]. What makes this very interesting is that when it comes to job employment in Hollywood, it's mostly white males and they generally get the first opportunities to become members.

Within these startling numbers and statistics that I have found, this highlights the first real issue of diversity in Hollywood (please note that this is just the surface and the Academy reflects the market of Hollywood, we will have to look at the deeper lining issue of the major film companies and their issues of diversity as well). Now with this we can understand why in a strong case, for the past 2 years African-American filmmakers, actors, producers and other categories have been shut out of not only winning an academy but even being nominated for one.

Let's look at this disgusting number based on research by the Huffington Post: since its creation, over 2,947 Academy Awards have been given out and only 31 have been given out to African-American winners! That is 1.05 percent, this is sad and disgusting; of the 31, 7 has gone to Best Actor and only 1 has gone to best Actress. Majority of those wins have gone to movies that downgrade and feed into the unfortunate stereotypes and prejudices that African-Americans have to deal with [4]. Now we can name countless African-American films that are truly worthy of recognition by the Academy, but it doesn't change the fact that regardless of how excellent a film is and it is promoting the uplifting image and true heroism and stories of our race, the fact still remains that the Academy and its lack of diversity will be the barrier that will have to be destroyed by incorporating heavy diversity within its organization.

While I commend the courage to have African-American individuals in the film industry to boycott the Academy Awards, it is a much deeper issue. I would encourage you all to stand as one group, on unionized cohort to encourage diversity within the ranks, encourage diversity in the film organizations that you are a part of for that movie you are working on and take action.

I also understand the notion that we should have our own to recognize our own; I am all for it, however in the United States of America, why must we have to do this for everything. If we are to fully realize the dreams of Dr. King and the great trailblazers who fought, sacrificed and died in the name of the American Principle, equality, freedom and justice, we have to make our voices clear and honor them and let the Academy know that each of you represent the mission of the Academy. This may be a very difficult task; so it was for Douglass, Truth, Allen, Tubman, DuBois, X, King and plenty of others, but if they can do it so can you. Be the change; expose it and call for it day in and day out in the name of equality, truth, justice and the American way.

Miles to go before we sleep.