The Anti-Blackness of #OscarsSoBlackAndWhite

White people rule The United States. They are the decision makers in politics and entertainment, they are the ones who set the standards in academia and create the working environments and they are considered the default in every scenario. These are just the facts.

When April Reign created #OscarsSoWhite back in 2015 she wanted to highlight one of these, the whiteness of the entertainment industry.

If you google her and the hashtag you’ll find interview after interview with her stating her goals and no those goals have never been “let’s elevate black creators and forget all other non-white people.”

“The goal is to have more marginalized people tell their stories within the entertainment industry, so I am always very humbled and appreciative when someone says, Let’s remember that April created the hashtag. But this whole movement and the changes that we’re seeing could not have happened with just me alone. It was everyone raising their voices, saying, We want to see movies that reflect our experience, and we’re not going to support with our hard-earned ticket dollars until we do.

It’s now 2018 and another round of Oscar nominations are out there and with them another round of stunningly bad takes including some non-black people of colour mad that this year, while still majority white, there are record breaking black nominees. Mary J. Blige and her two noms for acting and singing. Jordan Peele and his three for writing, directing and best picture. Octavia Spencer tying Viola Davis for the most nominated black actress. Dee Rees and her nom for writing (although unfortunately not directing). Get Out’s overall success. It’s a time to celebrate. Yes there’s still work to be done, a lot of work, generations worth of work, but every year strides are made instead of the norm of oh let’s throw a nom and then forget for another 5 years is a year to celebrate.

But instead someone decided that the optics of mostly white with a touch of black is enough that #OscarsSoBlackAndWhite needed to be created to highlight the lack of Asian and Latinx actors (but let’s not forget the success of Guillermo Del Toro’s Shape of the Water including his best director nomination and animated films Coco and Ferdinand) nominated. As if equating the hard work put in by black creatives and activists is anywhere near equal to the assumption that white is obviously best. As if most of these successes don’t still have white producers and decision makers deciding things like Get Out should be considered as a comedy. As if the success of black people making strides to destabilize the overwhelming whiteness of the entertainment industry is anything but good news for all non-white people.

Because for them this a zerosum game and their anti-blackness tells them that black success, not white supremacy, is the reason they aren’t winning. So instead of pointing out all the very white movies nominated (some of which are very mediocre hi Darkest Night) they say well why Get Out and not Okja. Instead of talking about how the heavily nominated Dunkirk is white-washed they talk about how unfair it is two black actresses were nominated for best supporting actress but not Downsizing’s Hong Chau. Instead of celebrating Kumail Nanjiani’s nomination for writing they go after a black woman who has been doing the work they haven’t been.

Because why talk about industry wide systemic problems and promote the successes that are there when you can try to tear down black people instead and set up false equivalences?

The landscape is changing. #OscarsSoWhite is working and not just for black people. We don’t need #OscarsSoHetero (another proposed hashtag as if white supremacy isn’t also about keeping heteronormativity the default and queers of colour exist) and we certainly don’t need #OscarsSoBlackAndWhite. Reign about this year’s nominations,

“As I’ve often said, #OscarsSoWhite is non-binary, so it’s not just about race, it’s also about age and sexual orientation and people from the first-nation community and women in gender-neutral categories,” Reign added. “I do believe some of the things we are seeing this year are a direct result of the Academy becoming more diverse, that’s because, at least in part, of the pressure placed on it by #OscarsSoWhite. We have more people of color in the Academy, more women in the Academy, and the demographic is becoming slightly younger as well. Because these folks are newer to the Academy, it stands to reason that they will be more interested in viewing films outside of their comfort zone. We’re seeing more diversity than we have in the past, but there’s still a long way to go.”

Stop creating a narrative to fit your anti-blackness and listen and do the work.

 

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Author: Maia Rose

A queer FilAm SFF, hockey, food and beer loving geeky Chicago denizen who spends too much time on the internets. Good thing none of you can judge. On twitter as semirose spouting nonsense 20/7

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