Theatre of the absurd
By Greg Strange
Must we as a nation go through yet another round of indignation and accusations of racism by yet another sector of the African-American population? Yes, we must, because that's what we continue to do, well into the 21st century, fifty years after the wildly successful civil rights movement and nearing the end of the second term of a black president. Racism is still rampant! But let not your heart be troubled. Dealing with that deeply ingrained racism is all part of a marvelous journey that we Americans are obliged – and privileged – to take in our quest for social justice.
And it can only be considered a bonus that this time the journey takes us not to some squalid, crime-infested ghetto, but rather to beautiful, glamorous . . . Hollywood! That's because the entertainment capital is, for the moment, the national focal point of racial bias and white privilege. Why? Because – gasp! – for two years running, no actors or actresses of color have been nominated for an Academy Award. What's next, a return to Jim Crow segregation and some new Al Jolson singing "My Mammy" in blackface? And so, in true civil rights fashion, a boycott of the Awards has been proposed by freedom-fighting luminaries such as Jada Pinkett Smith and the perpetually miffed Spike Lee.
In a video posted on Facebook, Smith said: "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? 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."
And then there was Spike Lee, who mused, in his inimitable and classy way, on Instagram: "Forty white actors in two years and no flava at all. We can't act?! WTF!!"
Let's see, Spike has been nominated for an Academy Award twice (though he didn't win) and recently received an Honorary Academy Award for a career of contributions to film-making. But he seemingly can't even make it through breakfast on any given day without getting indignant over some imagined racial slight. This is the same person, by the way, who didn't consider it "farfetched" that the United States government might have blown up a levee in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in order to kill or displace the city's black population. Just something to think about when considering his credibility on racial issues. The paranoia runs deep.
So here most of us were thinking that Tinseltown was a bastion of nearly pristine progressive thought, unsullied by those baser elements of human nature that are typically manifested in bigotry. You know, just like our universities, for instance, which, come to think of it, and despite being the ultimate left-wing outposts of political correctness, have legions of privileged black kids stomping around screaming about microaggressions, safe spaces and ubiquitous racism. Hmm . . . Is there a pattern here?
Speaking of patterns, and as predictably as night follows day, the Reverend Al Sharpton has glommed onto this Oscars issue. He's taking some time off from canonizing violent thugs like Michael Brown. After all, that has to be as tiresome as it is futile. So he might as well spend some quality time in Hollywood, relaxing and exposing a far less ugly form of racism: not enough Oscars for black folks. He gets to rail about white privilege without having to deal with angry mobs. That's a seriously sweet gig for a crotchety old race hustler.
So, is there really a racial problem in Hollywood that needs to be addressed? The short answer is, no. The long answer is, no, absolutely not, the very idea is preposterous and Will Smith, receiver of two Oscar nominations in the past (both of which were won by other black men), can you please get your disgruntled wife, Jada, to settle down and try to think rationally?
Here are the facts. Since 2000, blacks have received 10 percent of the nominations for acting awards. That's just slightly less than their proportion of the American population, which is 13 percent. That hardly seems like a huge problem. But what about the two consecutive years with no black nominations for acting (or as Spike put it, "We can't act?! WTF!!")? It happens, get over it.
Ice Cube is over it. He's the producer of "Straight Outta Compton," the recent biopic about the infamous rap group N.W.A., of which he was a founding member. The movie has received an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay, but no acting awards. But as Cube said, the movie has received "accolades from all levels. . . . How could you be mad because one academy or guild didn't say it's the number one? It's like crying about not having enough icing on your cake. It's just ridiculous."
Yes, exactly! It takes a former gangsta rapper to point this out?! WTF!!
And so the Oscars will go on, boycott or not, and the beautiful people will gather and lavish praise on each other. One bit of advice to security, though. If Kanye West is there, keep an eye on him. You know he'll want to rush the stage and snatch an Oscar statue right out of some cracker's hands.
Greg Strange can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (c) 2016 Greg Strange.