#Oscars and “Lack” Of Diversity – Here Is What No One Is Talking About

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

There seems to be a lot of opinions about the Oscars and the perceived lack of diversity. However, here is something no one seems to want to talk about.

I will preface this by saying that I am a black aspiring screenwriter. I’m sure any of us can pull up the numbers. How long the Oscars have been around, how many have won in each category, how many men have done this, women have done this, blacks have done that. “Lack of diversity” as far as minorities are concerned is an issue with many.

But here is something I have yet to see from anyone; how many in each of these categories are making the ATTEMPTS?

In other words, how many black actors are there when compared to whites? How many more predominantly black movies exist than predominantly white? I also understand that there is an issue as far as there not being as many women directors, writers and so on. Again, I ask…how many, when compared to men, are in the pot at all to begin with?

I know, I know…how dare I bring FACTS into anything or force people to think outside the box a little bit. I know that to consider this takes some of the thunder away from all the complaining going on about it, but I can’t see that it makes sense to complain about certain people not being there when we’re not even sure if the same or similar numbers of each category are even showing up.

For example, let’s say Hollywood has 100 actors and 50 are nominated. 35 of them are white, 10 are black and 5 are women. It doesn’t take a math whiz to understand with more white people in the “pot,” the odds are in their favor.

Now let’s say, in a different scenario, there were more nominations and of those, the same 50 in this scenario actually won (35 whites, 10 blacks and 5 women, all won Oscars). Now, even in that case, there is still more than twice the number of whites than there are minorities. But again, how many came to the “party” to begin with? Can we honestly say that the minorities are being slighted just because the numbers of who won happen to be lower than with whites?

If that’s a bit too theoretical to accept, then think of it this way: Let’s take a casino slot machine. One person plays and wins the jackpot after 100 pulls. Another person comes along, works that very same slot machine, pulls the handle 25 times and then complains the machine is rigged in favor of the other person. Now I understand how slot machines and casinos work, but I think this is still a good example. How can the person who only made a fraction of the pulls say that they’re being slighted? I can understand if they pulled the same number of times, because then they would have a case. But with only 1/4 of the attempts, how can they expect the same results? If only a fraction of minorities are there to even attempt any of this, how can we figure the numbers for us will be the same as for the white people involved?

Let’s try another example and this time, with my favorite show on television right now; ABC’s Nashville. In reading the original script written by show creator Callie Khouri (whom I tremendously admire and greatly respect for her work here and Thelma and Louise) I don’t recall seeing any part where it was written that certain characters were white. I’m not sure of whether the casting notice later on specifically asked for white actors, but even if it was, let’s think about this. Nashville is a country-music themed show. Would it be that unreasonable that most of the actors would be white? That’s just like if a show or movie came out about a professional basketball league. I doubt many people would lose sleep to see that actors who played as the basketball players were mostly black, seeing as to how the National Basketball League is made up of mostly black players.

But back to Nashville. The country music world is predominantly white. So even if the roles didn’t specifically call for white actors, let’s be honest; how many black actors would be drawn to them? The lead character, “Rayna Jaymes,” is the reigning “Queen of Country Music.” As much as I personally love the character, how many black actresses would be drawn to that role? On top of that, let’s take her guitar-playing love interest, “Deacon Claybourne.” Knowing that Rayna is white, how many black actors would be beating down the door to play the role of a love interest (and soon-to-be husband) to a female country music singer?

This certainly does NOT mean that these roles or similar are potentially bad in any way. It may just be the nature of the role that actors may not be interested in. If blacks are not auditioning for the roles of these Nashville characters, is it fair to say that Callie Khouri and/or those responsible are intentionally slighting them? Should we fault her for “not being diverse” in choosing actors and actresses for this show? Should they just “create” roles to appease the black community? If that’s not in their “vision,” then in my opinion, hell no, they shouldn’t.

Speaking of “vision,” that’s another thing. Anyone who is interested in any kind of art knows how important maintaining and following your vision is. That vision is what you allow to come out. That vision may be based on a lot of things, but it wouldn’t be fair to tell people to “shape” their vision on what society what them to shape it to. In other words, as a writer, I’m not going to change a particular script just because somebody doesn’t like my vision. That isn’t the same as an experienced writer, actor or an executive telling me that my format or some technical aspect is incorrect; in much of those areas, I will certainly have to listen to them. But back to Nashville again; if Callie’s vision is that these are white characters, it is wrong to tell her change that “vision.” The vision belongs to her, not everyone else.

As a black aspiring screenwriter, I don’t want anything handed to me or for anything to be changed to work in my favor because of my race. While I understand that this is an incredibly tough business to break into, I want to feel like I BELONG, not feel like I was given a “pass” because of being black. It’s a lot easier to proceed and earn the respect of those I work with when they can appreciate my writing, work ethic and all that comes with it, rather than for it to be known or even assumed that I was only chosen because of my race and have little else to show for it. Some people think that I’m being too choosy in saying that, but call me crazy…I just want to earn my spot rather to take it from a white writer whose work is better than mine, because if I were on that side of it, I wouldn’t find it fair. It’s not as if he or she asked to be white, so they shouldn’t suffer or have it held against them because of something they had no control over.

Many may not understand or agree with that. I just can’t think of any better way to explain it. It “sounds” better to raise hell about minorities not being given an honest chance, but how many of us are showing up to begin with? The “fire” is in the kitchen, but we’re looking in the upstairs bathroom spraying water everywhere and can’t figure out why the fire still exists.

Also…whatever happened to doing art in whatever form for the LOVE of it, rather than to win awards? The Oscars are a PRIVILEGE, not a RIGHT. If you are in the business for anything other than the love of it, then I don’t know what to tell you. I am truly and deeply in love with being a screenwriter. I haven’t once thought about money or winning awards (other than in writing that sentence) because writing is where my heart is and I believe, always will be. And truthfully, the first time I’m able to work with professional actors and they are acting out the words I’VE written, I would be beside myself on that alone. My mind can’t even get past that part of it without being just tremendously ecstatic.

As for the Oscars, the bottom line is this: We can’t cry about them not feeding us when we don’t so much as bring our asses to the table to eat. Period.

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