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The Oscars boycott

Posted: January 21, 2016 4:45 p.m.
Updated: January 22, 2016 1:00 a.m.
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Kayleigh Gates

Red carpet. Flashing cameras. Gorgeous designer gowns. Sharp, flashy tuxedos. A-list celebrities. The 2016 Oscars are upon us.

But this year’s Oscars are amassing quite a bit of unwarranted controversy. In 21st century America, it is easy to see racial tensions are still very much alive. In fact, they have clearly grown worse over the last few years with race-inspired riots and shootings taking place on what seems to be a daily basis. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise this year’s Oscars are being boycotted by a growing number of African-American media and film figures for being "too white." For the second year in a row, the list of major nominees have all been white. Jada Pinkett-Smith, actress and wife of fellow actor Wil Smith, announced she will not be attending the February 28th Oscars ceremony because of the lack of diversity.

"Today is Martin Luther King’s birthday, and I can’t help but ask the question: Is it time that people of color recognize how much power, influence that we have amassed, that we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere?" Pinkett-Smith said in a public Facebook message. "Begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power. And we are a dignified people, and we are powerful. So let’s let the Academy do them, with all grace and love. And let’s do us, differently."

While it is true that African-Americans as a whole are a dignified, powerful and influential people, Pinkett-Smith and many other members of the black community boycotting the entire Oscars ceremony for a lack of diversity is just whiny and downright ridiculous. If she honestly feels the Oscars are too white, her boycott does nothing more than prohibit her calls for diversity. Choosing to boycott the Oscars and asking the black media community to "do us, differently" does nothing more than create an even larger divide in a world of growing racial tension. Perhaps if Pinkett-Smith chose to accept the Oscars are not about race but instead are a time when people of all races can come together to celebrate hard work and great talent, she and many others would discover the Oscars are a time to be celebrated.

There is no excuse for disappointment in the black community over the Oscars. The host of this year’s awards, Chris Rock, is African-American. The president of The Academy, which votes on the Oscars, is African-American herself. The first African-American to win an Oscar was Hattie McDaniel, who won a best supporting actress award in 1940 for her role in Gone With the Wind. This was at a time when African-Americans were far from having the rights that they have today. To date, 44 African-Americans have been nominated for acting awards at the Oscars alone. And while this figure may be small compared to the number of white actors and actresses nominated, it proves the issue at hand is not an issue of racial discrimination. Instead, it is an issue of a lack of diversity in the major film industry, and this is only reflected by the Oscars.

Instead of boycotting, the black community should be encouraging African-Americans to be more involved in film throughout the year.

(Kayleigh Gates is a senior at Camden High School and an editor of the school’s

Palmetto Leaf newspaper. She hopes to attend the University of South Carolina and study journalism. Kayleigh is one of several high school columnists for the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C.)

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