#OscarsSoWhite: As a Black Aspiring Screenwriter, Why I Find This Hashtag Embarrassing

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Call me crazy. Call me naïve. I’ve been married for almost 17 years and my wife is white, so I’ve been called much worse, especially from those in the black community when I don’t say something they want to hear or what they feel I’m “supposed” to say. It’s really nothing new.

A few days ago, the Oscar voting took place. While I didn’t watch, I understand that there weren’t any black actors or predominantly black movies that received recognition. Shortly following that, the hashtag of #OscarsSoWhite was created. I don’t think I have to explain what that means.

Will Chase is an actor on my favorite show on television right now; he plays “Luke Wheeler” on ABC’s Nashville. In following him on Twitter, shortly after the Oscars, I began seeing his responses to the people who tweeted him about it. However, many were not simply people expressing unbiased and respectful opinions.

A lot of the tweets I saw were of folks attacking him for his views. Now it goes without saying that with years of experience in the business, Will knows just a little bit more about how things would go as far as the Oscars are concerned than those of us on the outside ever would.

To summarize, I believe that Will feels that this year’s Oscars are no different than any other year and that race really is no part of it. I completely agree with that. Even not being an avid watcher of these awards shows, every single year, it’s in the news that actors and movies are “snubbed.” Same for a lot of television programs and these are white actors, along with shows with a predominantly white cast. So personally, I really don’t understand how it’s a race issue this year. I could tolerate if this was the first and only year this has happened, but there are issues like this every single year. If I hear it a lot and I don’t even watch, then it’s probably even more than I realize.

As for Will, people were telling him that being white, he is “privileged” and has no idea. They implied that he got where he is by that infamous “white privilege” and not by hard work. Then of course the classic “You’re part of the problem” with little explanation to follow. His opinion doesn’t match everyone else’s, so clearly, the problem rests with him and people like him.

Will doesn’t seem to put a lot of stock in the awards shows to begin with and he expressed that. So it wasn’t even as if he was making excuses for why this particular show went the way it did. I’m sure the opinions of other actors aren’t far of from that.

What I mean by that is this. We often hear most about those who win, but who as for those who do not or are nominated, not too much about them. So while it would be nice to believe that blacks are the absolutely ONLY ones to be “snubbed” and not receive awards and nominations as we would like them to, we are far from the only ones. Just research “Actors who have never won an Oscar.” A lot of the names on there would surprise you.

Yes, I could do it for you. But I’m sure that people reading this are well-spoken and intelligent and have the ability to research for yourselves, correct? And you would never pull up ONLY what supports your stance, right? You’d be totally unbiased, right?

Speaking again of the television series Nashville, Connie Britton (who plays the lead character, “Rayna Jaymes” on the show) is the only actor in history to be nominated for an Emmy three straight years as actor on three different shows (Friday Night Lights in 2011, American Horror Story in 2012 and Nashville in 2013). Even fans of hers may not even know that. But this is what I’m talking about. Those who win, we hear much more about, but those who do not, not so much, even if they are nominated many times. Connie is an amazing actress who I didn’t even know about until Nashville began in 2012.

Yet, the focus is solely on the black actors and movies with a predominantly black cast that happened this year in the Oscars and a few other times in history. Never mind the fact that the participants are likely not even similar to in previous years. In other words, let’s say that something hasn’t happened in 80 years. Well if those same circumstances don’t exist in, let’s say, 30 of those years, then it’s not completely accurate to say that it’s been 80 years all together.

As for the Oscars, people are saying that since 1929 (when they began), no movie with a predominantly black cast has won the award. My question is this: Has there been this type of movie every single year? No, it hasn’t. So to say that a black movie “hasn’t won in 87 years” isn’t accurate…

…but it sound much better, doesn’t it? Makes for a “stronger” argument, I suppose.

Even though black people were not the only ones to express concern about the Oscars, the embarrassing issue for me is those who are black and are making this, as with many other issues in life, about people being “racist.”

That’s not to say that for those who aren’t black, it’s okay to accuse someone of being racist. Not at all. But sadly, this comes more from our community than anyone else.

Looking on some Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, I’m seeing terms like “Hollywood is racist” and “White devils of Hollywood” and “They don’t want to see us succeed” and many others. So even if there was a valid point somewhere in there, it would lost in all this nonsense that in many cases, is even more racist than what is being alleged from those in Hollywood.

Now there are black actors and filmmakers who are talking about boycotting the Oscars. Why? What would that solve?

So what are we doing? Boycotting “until we win”? Then how genuine would that feel? Then how long would it take before the issue was that we as blacks “didn’t win as many awards as whites did”? Probably not very long, I think it’s safe to assume.

My problem is that this only further adds to the “crying wolf” syndrome that has plagued the black community for many, MANY years. Are there legitimate cases of racism against blacks out there? Absolutely. But in calling damn near everything a case of it, that’s where it loses its meaning, along with some support from people who aren’t black who really do care, but eventually get tired of the foolishness as well.

Again, if blacks were the ONLY ones snubbed, then I would get it. But actors are snubbed every single year and way more white than black.

People say that there “needs to be equality.” Fair enough. So how does this happen? One thing I’ve learned as an Army soldier for more than 18 years is that you don’t speak about problems without offering solutions. So what would the solution be here? What would equate to “equality” as far as the Oscars are concerned?

If blacks won awards “just because” or a rule of some kind was changed to where blacks HAD to receive at least one award and/or nomination, how would that feel? How proud should we be as a community to win awards that way? Affirmative action for the Oscars. Yeah, sign me up for that one.

I’ve even heard people say, “There aren’t enough roles for black people.” What exactly is a black “role”? Something stereotypical? Considering all the roles I’ve heard black actors turn down or say that they’d never do (because it’s not believed to be a typical “black” role), I’m having a tough time getting this one. “Black roles”? When casting takes place, is it really believed that most of these parts are ONLY for white people? How many have truly tried and lost an audition to a white person and race was specifically the reason?

What I see is that a lot of people are complaining, but don’t have a viable solution. That could mean one of two things; either that there really isn’t a problem and people are looking to fuss, or that there may be a problem, but people are more concerned with raising hell than offering sensible solutions.

I can imagine that some of you reading may think that as an aspiring screenwriter who happens to be black, that I truly have no place to speak about this. Maybe I don’t. But I also know that I’m not about to let race be a crutch for me as many think it should or will be.

Yes, at times when I’ve spoken about this, I get the implication that I will eventually be disrespected and undervalued in the business simply because I am black.

Oh, but there are a lot of successful black people in the business. Ah, but yes…many of those, especially who aren’t pro-black, are called “sellout,” “Uncle Tom” and all the typical retorts. So either we aren’t successful and race is the problem, or we are and we’re belittled by our own community. Makes perfect sense.

Once again, call me whatever you would like. Chances are, I’ve heard it all before, many times. Even say that I’m “part of the problem” because I don’t buy into the nonsense or blame everything on my race. It won’t stop anything I’m doing. Even if you are someone who is further along than me, with that attitude, I’ll certain catch up or bypass you one day. Don’t get too comfortable.

I’ll end this by saying that in the midst of all this, there is very little belief from our community that it’s possible that our movies or actors just weren’t good enough to win. In other words, many feel that just our existence should have been enough to get us an award or a nomination. There is no level of improvement from US that could be necessary. That is the most disturbing part of all. It almost doesn’t even matter if our quality is good enough.

As a black aspiring screenwriter, I want to work hard to do good work. That’s it. If my scripts win awards, then that’s great. If they don’t, I’m not going to jump off a bridge or go and boycott everything. I will just continue to work…

…because my love is in screenwriting, not in winning awards. If that makes me crazy or naïve, then so be it.

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3 Responses to #OscarsSoWhite: As a Black Aspiring Screenwriter, Why I Find This Hashtag Embarrassing

  1. Erica says:

    As a Geek I can understand the snubs.

    Whenever people tell me about this snub or that snub I ask them if they’ve seen or heard of Star Wars. Before the latest movie insanity when it was a valid question. Everyone had at least heard of it….yet it never won Best Movie….and it’s a multibillion franchise.

    In 1977 Rocky won best picture, In 1980 Kramer vs. Kramer won, in 1983 “Gandhi” won. Out of those three movies most people have only heard of Rocky, aside from knowing who Gandhi is, most are not aware there was ever a movie.

    Whether or not you’re down with Geek stuff Lord of the Rings was a damn fine film in many many aspects. It got a Best Picture award on the third installment after 2 years of complaining. As a planned trilogy it had that courtesy. No real best Actors, etc. Just technical and musical nominations or wins.

    Even now I see MANY articles complaining about the “Comic Movies” that have gotten famous these past few years. I’m not here to defend every geeky movie but clearly Hollywood has Geek-Hate. I mean if Tom Hanks or DiCaprio doesn’t die in the film it’s not winning an Oscar.

    I think people forget that Hollywood loves the Artsy-Fartsy crap. The Color Purple (one of my favorite books) probably lost academy favor on the implied same sex relationship, not because it was “A black movie”. If that movie came out now it would likely be more celebrated, because there was nothing wrong with the film, only the age it was made in.

    Ironically if Will Smith hadn’t done so many sci-fi movies (and then a movie pissing in the face of the NFL) he would have an Oscar by now. He certainly deserves it and I understand the Smith disappointment….but as you said….MANY fine actors don’t have an Oscar.

    I would think that the fact that I’m an almost 40 year old white girl who can sing the entire intro to Fresh Prince would be proof that not every white person hates “black TV” or “black movies”. I just happen to be a geek, and my dollar has never counted in the Oscars either.

    Like

  2. Henry says:

    Awesome blog here! I love you’re unbiased and rational view of this debate and it’s a breath of fresh air in an increasingly PC and censored world we live in. Keep up the great work man!

    Like

  3. Fantastic blog. People forget that Steve McQueen received his only Academy Award nomination in 1966 for his work on The Sand Pebbles and he didn’t even win! Or that Paul Newman was nominated 8 times before he finally won for The Colour of Money.

    And it’s safe to say, not only could those guys could act, but they were genuine movie stars!

    Liked by 1 person

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