I am a Black man in the beginning of my 30s who cannot shake the constant desire to consume chicken wings and copious amounts of fried catfish. I need to be stingy with my stress levels. With that in mind, I will not allow the Oscar nominations and the sea of whiteness in which it sailed on to give me high blood pressure.
Once again, there are no people of color nominated in any of the major acting categories. Once again, Black film directors like Ryan Coogler and F. Gary Gray find themselves shut out of nominations in the Best Director category. You know, like Ava DuVernay last year, Spike Lee many years, or [insert Black director’s name here] in your year of choosing.
Once again, there is no film with a majority Black cast nominated for Best Picture.
Once again, some Black people find themselves enraged; some White people are tapping into said rage; some Black people are denoting we should not give that great a damn about White people; some White people are trying to play down the role racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia—be it subconscious or otherwise—all plays into this lily White set of nominees.
I am so bored with this cyclical debate that I had to slap myself with caffeine to stay awake long enough to finish this sentence. However, it’s a debate that should be had and will be had until it no longer has to. That’s not so much a wink to wanting White approval as it is making clear that those who claim to be the judge of all of us actually live up to such a standard as opposed to continuing to make whiteness serve as the American default.
To be fair, it is the general consensus that the Best Picture category (minus the film “Carol” being snubbed) is a pretty strong group of films. For those of you who want to insert Straight Outta Compton securing a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, don’t bother. That film was written by White people, and the screenplay—including some glaring omissions about the women who played vital roles in N.W.A’s ascension and suffered from violent acts at the hands of its members—is probably the worst part of the movie.
I am not shocked by any of this happening, but no less disappointed. Though I will not personally give up too much of my energy to the Academy, I do understand those who choose to. What I will argue, however, is that when it comes to this ongoing debate, the focus should be clear.
It is not just about individuals we perceived to be snubbed each year. What matters more so is that Black creatives and women and members of other minority groups be given better opportunities. Until that happens, we’ll all just continue to argue for scraps and consider them a full meal. All of us—including the Academy—deserve better from us.
That said, I will enjoy this year’s host, Chris Rock, cracking jokes about the obvious and ongoing inherent bias. Then I’ll change the channel. You should, too.
Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem, and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him @youngsinick.