Last week Black Twitter resurrected the popular 2015 hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite after the Academy blatantly excluded people of color from all its major acting categories for the second year in a row.
No surprise there considering the fact that over the course of several decades, nominations for black actors have been few and far in between. Just ask the 1988 version of Eddie Murphy. We won’t even get into the fact that the awards are usually given to black actors playing subservient roles.
What’s interesting this year is the fact that Hollywood heavy weights like Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Spike Lee openly announced that they would boycott the awards.
Here’s my take on the situation: I no longer believe we should wait on anyone to pat us on the back for a job well done. It’s a losing game, especially when you don’t fit the typical mold of what these award shows are engineered to uphold. In this case, it’s the Eurocentric view of what America should be as a nation and on film. Accolades should be the added bonus to what many artists set out to do—and that is to showcase their gifts, entertain their audience, and inspire others to do the same.
This is not to say that racism isn’t alive and well in Hollywood and we should refrain from calling it out—on the contrary. Let’s call a spade a spade but continue to do what we need to do thrive, be whole, and support our communities.
So by all means, declare #OscarsSoWhite and if you’re a celebrity, it’s fine if you skip slipping into yet another couture gown to present an award to your white peer, but please stay on course of what’s important: creating and supporting content that illustrates both the beauty and complexities of black people. Instead of worrying about what few black artists get high honors for their performances, black heavy weights in Hollywood should work even harder to support artists of color who are desperately seeking work and painstakingly seeking funding for their projects. Oscars are nice when they’re given out, but let’s be real, they are not the answer to combating racism in Hollywood. Compare the number of white films being made with decent sized budgets to black films of the same caliber. Therein lies the problem.
I applaud the Smiths’ accomplishments as a family. They’ve been able to produce a number of movies and FELA on Broadway, which was a phenomenal success. But I think back to November as Will Smith campaigned for an Oscar Nomination for his role as Bennet Omalu in the film Concussion. During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, He openly admitted that feels Hollywood isn’t racist, just prejudice. He took his statement even further by saying racism is “rare” in Hollywood. Yet he told Robin Roberts during his recent interview about his choice to boycott the awards, “There’s a regressive slide towards separatism, towards racial and religious disharmony and that’s not the Hollywood that I want to leave behind.”
Did his Oscar snub this year wake him up to the idea of a racist Hollywood? If so, Who could blame the original “Aunt Viv” for calling the Smiths’ motives to Boycott into question?
Then there was the uproar surrounding one black woman’s question of a popular hashtag. In an article titled, “Here’s The Problem With #BlackGirlMagic,” for ELLE.Com, Dr. Linda Chavers compared what was created as a celebratory slogan to the “strong black woman” narrative that many feel has done more to hurt the image of black women than help. According to her:
“The ‘strong black woman’ archetype, which also includes the mourning black woman who suffers in silence, is the idea that we can survive it all, that we can withstand it. That we are, in fact, superhuman. Black girl magic sounds to me like just another way of saying the same thing, and it is smothering and stunting. It is, above all, constricting rather than freeing.”
After reading her interview with For Harriet in the aftermath of her internet “dragging” courtesy of Black Twitter and beyond, I realized she is entitled to completely dwell on all of the negative things that need to be “fixed” when it comes to black womanhood. But I’m baffled by the fact that she didn’t expect the backlash for the article. If we’re not allowed to celebrate our goodness, our beauty, and our resilience in the face of countless odds, how do we survive? How do we ever come away from the negative things that happen with a sense of balance?
I’m proud that we live in a time when many black women are so awake to that fact. We see what’s happening around us, yet we’re pushing back and reaffirming what we know for sure, and that is that we deserve praise—not because we are superhuman or superheroes or supernatural as Dr. Chavers implies, but because we are human beings who continue overcome incredible odds almost on a daily basis. If we don’t celebrate that, who will?
So I salute black women once again for being effortlessly #BeyondClassicallyBeautiful. Please continue to let your #BlackGirlMagic shine through in the best way.