This year seemed to be a promising year of colored people in film: from “Creed” (written and directed, as well as starred in, by black men) to “Straight Outta Compton” (directed by black F. Gary Gray with an acting ensemble of young black men), yet somehow, the only contributors to these films nominated for an Academy Award were Caucasians.In fact, no actors of color even received a nomination in this year, eliciting a howl of responses and attacks from the public and celebrities alike. Last year, #OscarsSoWhite lit up Twitter, criticizing the lack of minorities represented from the film industry for the Academy Awards. This year, the complaints surpassed social media as acclaimed actors such as Will Smith vow to boycott the red carpet. This boycott places actors of color in a bind as they must decide between alienating a fanbase of social activists or gaining national attention and recognition at the award ceremony.
Although I admire Will Smith and others for taking a stand in what they believe in, they’re making the wrong choice. The president of the African American Film Critics Association offers a different solution. Gil Robertson told the Los Angeles Times, “(Black audiences) are upset, and we have a right to be…But I think there is a more effective way to continue the drumbeat of this challenge. That might be, if you’re lucky to be invited, to go and use that as a platform to further that dialogue.”
Actors hold a tremendous amount of power. Since celebrities are constantly in the view of the public, individuals can be extremely influenced by their actions and words. Gil Robertson was right: boycotting isn’t the answer. Walking down the red carpet and holding their heads high and being extremely vocal (yet still respectful) at the event itself is. This isn’t succumbing to the racism of the Academy Awards. If these actors boycott the Oscars, then they’re creating a divide between minorities and whites in the industry, which is the opposite of what boycotters want.
There should be a heavy African-American presence on the red carpet to reflect that of the film industry and all their accomplishments made this year, and while yes, the golden statues distributed should be representative of that, filmmakers and actors have no control over that. What they do have control over, however, is their response to it.
Tonight at the pre-Oscar’s ceremony, “Spotlight” actor Mark Ruffalo made a statement on the matter. This is something our country needs to talk about, Ruffalo said. I agree. It’s a matter of being united and standing together. The red carpet should be a way to unite Hollywood, not divide the nation. I’m hoping to see some change in the future, and until then, I commend black actors for standing up for what they believe in.