The hell with it. Starting from the top Academy Award president Cheryl Boone said in a widely quoted media release, “Personally, I would love to see and look forward to see[ing] a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories.” Hogwash. She ain’t nothin’ but a Uncle Tomasina.
The time and place for her to say something was up on the podium the night of the awards when she announced the nominations, shining and grinning alongside White actor Chris Evans. Not the next day, after her hand had been forced by the public and press raising three different kinds of hell, creating a controversy she couldn’t go back, hide in her exclusive, expensive home and ignore.
Just like that other president, the one sitting up under White folk in Washington, D.C., she’s a privileged, propped-up, two-faced figurehead who at the end of the day doesn’t give a tinker’s damn that, after all this time, racial discrimination still determinedly characterizes this society.
Nor should anyone get bent out of shape over movie-goers who’re moping around, grousing about how they’re so offended. They’ve let themselves be led around by the nose, cheering ineffectual, cosmetic knee-jerk NAACP protests, worshipping film stars who don’t give a flying figure-eight about them.
Black cinema fans should’ve boycotted way back, when, as backlash against Isaac Hayes getting best song for Shaft in 1972, the next year Hollywood served up an object lesson: We’ll give it to y’all for making good music, but take you serious as artists? Get real. A handful of nominations and not a single win despite the likes of Paul Winfield, Diana Ross and Lonnie Elder III.
More recently the industry in 2007 similarly handed the supporting actress award to singer Jennifer Hudson, who couldn’t act wet in a rainstorm, in her first film role, after snubbing Black women who’d been busting their hips in the business for ages. In 2008, Denzel Washington, Ruby Dee and Clarence Williams III (American Gangster); and Jeffrey Wright, Beyoncé Knowles in a killer performance as Etta James, Gabrielle Union and Columbus Short (Cadillac Records) got completely shut out with only Dee getting so much as a nomination.
It’s fitting that the Academy Awards ceremony will be Feb. 22, during Black History Month. If that additional slap in the face doesn’t light a fire under Black folk’s behinds, nothing will. And, face facts, it won’t.
If there’s one thing Black Americans have a proven track record for doing it’s giving lip service to outraged indignation on Monday night and going right back to supporting the system Tuesday morning, which is too bad. Because if they boycotted movies like they boycott books, the whole damn situation would turn around tomorrow.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.