As Oscar season is upon us, the ongoing dialogue concerning race in Hollywood is long overdue. However, the catalyst for this discourse — no best actress/actor Oscar nominations for people of color — has entirely missed the point.
I can’t help but feel that if merely one actor of color were nominated, this conversation would not be happening. The 2014 Oscar’s saw only Chiwetel Ejiofor represent all actors of color in both gender categories. Yet our national discussion is happening now and not then. Does the mere presence of one actor of color relieve of us from discussing racial disparities in Hollywood?
Clint Eastwood succeeds in making “American Sniper” a powerful film that addresses the under-discussed subject of PTSD in the military. He also enlists an overwhelmingly white cast when the military has long been a career avenue for many Americans of color. Of the roughly 70 roles in the film, about 10 percent went to actors of color.
“American Sniper” falls significantly short of the estimated 40 percent of active duty servicepersons of color in the military. This brings us back to our original problem. The issue is not the lack of opportunity on Hollywood’s greatest stage; it is the lack of opportunity at any stage in the industry. Instead of analyzing the end of the problem, we should look at the process and its inception for answers.
Are there disproportionate racial disparities in grade school and high school theater and arts programs? Waiting for Oscar season to judge inequality of outcomes is too late. These inequalities do not manifest at the end, they are present at the beginning. The 2015 Oscar’s forced us to notice racial disparities in Hollywood, let’s address the root of the problem to institute change.