OPINION: Oscar controversy sparks powder keg of oppression

The Academy Awards have been an overarching presence in the film industry for years. They serve as a way for actors, directors, writers, producers, etc. to be recognized by their peers. Usually this is a time of celebration, but the recently announced nominees have given birth to a controversy that has caused some prominent industry figures to outright boycott the entire event. For the second year in a row, zero actors of color have been nominated for best actor/actress and best supporting actor/actress.

Almost immediately after the nominations were posted on January 14th, #OscarsSoWhite began trending on twitter and became the shorthand term for the controversy. Promenant film figures such as Spike Lee, Will Smith, and Jada Pinkett Smith have gone so far as to boycott the awards entirely.

In a video posted to Pinkett Smith’s Facebook page on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day she states, “The Academy has the right to acknowledge whomever they choose, to invite whomever they choose. Begging for acknowledgment, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power. And we are a dignified people. And we are powerful.”

That same day actor David Oleywo who portrayed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 2015’s critically acclaimed Selma, which coincidentally was also overlooked by the Academy, gave his opinion on the matters at hand. After the 2015 Oscars, Oleywo claims to have had a “deep and meaningful” conversation with Academy President Cheryl Boone Issacs.

At the King Legacy Awards Oleywo states, “For 20 opportunities to celebrate actors of color, actresses of color, to be missed last year is one thing; for that to happen again this year is unforgivable.” Brushing off the Oscars as frivolous is not an option, he says: “The reason why the Oscars are so important is because it is the zenith, it is the epitome, it is the height of celebration of artistic endeavor within the filmmaking community…I would like to walk away and say it doesn’t matter, but it does, because that acknowledgement changes the trajectory of your life, your career, and the culture of the world we live in.”

The evening after the King Legacy Awards Issacs issued a statement. In it she writes, “I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes… the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly.” This change was cemented in a announcement from the Academy on January 21st that their current goal is to double the amount of minority and female board members by 2020.

The biggest changes to the system are most definitely the new voting requirements. Voting status must be reviewed every decade, and can be revoked for members who have not been active in the film business for 10 years. After three 10-year terms, members get lifetime voting rights. Anyone who has ever won or been nominated for an Oscar will also have lifetime voting rights.

Although there is much support for the fight towards diversity, there is some opposition from actors such as