Understanding the 2016 Oscar boycott

If you haven’t yet heard, there is a boycott of the 2016 Oscar awards by many of the black/African-American actors. This year there were no nominees of people of color. I think it’s important to understand what the boycott is about and also what you can learn from this event.
Before continuing first, I’m going to use the terms; minority, color, black, African-American interchangeably. I will also use the term boycott to withdraw from commercial or social relations with (a country, organization, or person) as a punishment or protest.
This is a very hard subject to discuss without touching on so many other issues involving perception, power, politics, control, and wealth. I’ll attempt to stay on course and not pull you into something militant or angry that dilutes the message. I believe, my reaction to subtle and obvious racism can be explained without it just being a emotional reaction. I would hope that our young men of color would have a different reaction based on their experiences. The younger generation may not understand the history and passively assign behavior to “the way things are”.   So when I explain the components of this boycott I want to try to give a better understanding of all the related pieces of this racial derivative that constantly affects people of color. My desire is that you come to your own conclusion after you’ve completed your own personal examination of a system that benefits from your existence but grants no honor to your contributions. My reasons may or may not be valid to you but they are MY reasons, find your own reason to boycott…or not, but do it for the right reason.
First, I haven’t watched the Oscars since Denzel and Halle won in 2002. Why? Well…let’s go back. The country had just been attacked 6 months prior on Sept 11, 2001 and all of sudden black people weren’t the most threatening thing in our society. It seemed ironic that all of a sudden we get, not one Oscar, but two! Oh it get’s better, not only did we get two awards that evening but the award went to the worst representations of black people.
Halle didn’t get an award for her portrayal in “Frankie & Alice” which was probably her best work, she gets the award that evening for “Monsters Ball”. A tale of a racist white man, Hank, who falls in love with a black woman named Leticia(Halle). Ironically, Hank is a prison guard working on death row who executed Leticia’s husband. Seriously?!
Moving on, let’s look at Denzel, he wins for portraying a crooked murdering undercover cop. Denzel was awarded for “Training Day” not for some of the other great works he has been in like;  Soldiers Story or Malcom X.
Based on the history of the nominations and winners, the award show has always endorsed or validated the most vile and subjugated examples of black existence.

And the Oscar for best actor in a lead role goes to…

Denzel Washington – A story about a black crooked murderer cop that trains other cops to be bad.

Forest Whitaker – A story about a vicious black lunatic paranoid murdering ruler.

It does not go to…Denzel for “Malcolm X” or Will Smith for “The Pursuit of Hapyness” or Don Cheadle for “Hotel Rwanda”.

And the Oscar for best actress in a lead role goes to…

Halle Berry – A a poor black Southern woman who falls for a white widowed prison-guard after the execution of her husband.

It does not go to Dorothy Dandridge for “Carmen Jones”, or Diana Ross for “Lady Sings the Blues”, or Cicely Tyson for “Sounder” or Angela Bassett for “What’s Love got to do with it”

Yes there are some winners that made us proud in their portrayal, like Sidney Poitier and Morgan Freeman and Whoopi. It’s just that all to common where we are validated with the most flawed representation of people of color. The role is always a role the establishment is comfortable with perpetuating.

If you’re a man, you’re always the representation of brute strength muscle or some comedic slant. You’re NEVER the intelligent lead character that the runs the successful mission. If you’re a man in some position of authority there’s always some blunder associated with your leadership.

You’re the guy the didn’t set the timer correctly in the mission, you’re the president that didn’t issue the command, you’re the prankster that is never serious.

I’m not saying that this is the case across the board in ever story line, but the majority of the time, it’s the African-American that’s either the most violent, or he’s killed first.

Some time you’ll see the sacrificial lamb saying, “Save yourselves!”

Save yourselves?! Seriously?! I’m trying to survive too…but that’s my point in this industry at every turn black lives don’t matter. That’s the message that’s constantly embodied.

Thank God for the yellow M&M because if there was a black one, I’m sure everything would be blamed on him.

So I say that to ask, why place value in a system that validates your existence as the least intelligent, most violent and lacking the capacity to efficiently fulfill any leadership capacity? I’m not talking about what’s correct, I’m talking about perception. Unfortunately, misrepresentation is a part of our culture. Since the movie, the “Birth of a Nation” and that movie’s depiction of black men, we have been constantly positively underrepresented and negatively over-represented.

Why watch “programming” that does not represent me?

Let’s continue, I haven’t watched the Grammys since about 2002 either. Why?! That was the year India Arie was nominated for 7 Grammys and didn’t win one…not one.

The last award that she could win was for best record of the year. I never forget it,

And the record of the year goes to Walk On -by U2.

India was crushed. She and U2 were both backstage waiting. When they announced U2, Bono and the gang were trying to pull her on stage and she refused. All 7 and nothing. I was mad, disappointed but I realized something in my anger. This was about control. India Arie’s album “Acoustic Soul” was positive. The songs, “Video, Brown Skin, Strength Courage and Wisdom” were all positive. Think about her message…think about what she was singing about. It’s not a safe place for the establishment to say to blacks that it’s ok, not to wear weaves, it’s ok to feel beautiful with dark skin. It sounds crazy but think about it… India Arie was singing melodic black panther tracks. It was lovely, it was nice and it was definitely pro black. It wasn’t anti-white, but when you have blacks thinking positive, that changes everything. Her musical affirmation was healing uplifting people and if the establishment needs to keep people broken you can’t endorse the philosophy, you can’t award that album. 

You may think, well…that’s a stretch. I don’t think so. When blacks are multi-billion dollar contributors to 3 industries; the justice system, the prison system and weaves. You can’t systematically endorse anything that aligns against billions of dollars.

The establishment will endorse a story about a submissive maid or a corrupt cop or even a story about a rap pimp and his prostitute girlfriend but it will not endorse a beautiful positive black person. India spoke about the loss and how it increased her fan base, imagine if her fan base, millions of women, all of a sudden stopped buying weaves and started focusing on positive things. That is a distraction from being the multi-billion dollars contributors that we need to be for this system.

“The real job in this world is to be you.” – India Arie

Getting back on par, boycott if you want but be careful.

So when you boycott something anything, be aggressively aware of what you are excluding yourself from or aligning with. The established actors that have double-digit millions in the bank can boycott because they’ve established themselves. Young actors, new to the industry, should NOT boycott unless they can deal with not being considered for an Oscar ever again. It may be career suicide for young black actors trying to get established. Those young actors taking this stance and boycott may find life a little harder. You can’t go up against the system that influences your career, you livelihood in hopes that they overlook your little protest. Also understand, if you’re an actor and you NEVER get an Oscar, then quite possibly you  will never get those Oscar paychecks.


“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscience is to be in a rage almost all the time” James Baldwin

1 Comment

Filed under Life Skills

One response to “Understanding the 2016 Oscar boycott

  1. Marcia

    Great read! I believe that blacks are coming to a crossroad to where we will have to work in the industries but look for the awards from our own. Boycotting is not always the answer.


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