After the Academy Awards announced a slate of all-white nominees in major categories this year celebrities including Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee called for a boycott of the awards show. A communications researcher says the Academy must become inclusive if it wants to be relevant among people of color.
Dr. Sherri Williams, a faculty member in the Communications Department at Wake Forest University, studies representations of people of color in the media. FOX 8 in High Point, North Carolina asked Williams to offer insight into the debate. Williams said the awards show is already irrelevant among many black viewers.
"There is and already has been a quiet and maybe undeclared boycott of the Oscars by African-Americans anyway,” said Williams who teaches a class on race, gender and the media. “People already don't watch the Oscars and they have really become obsolete because people don't see the work that they enjoy and the work that really expresses their life stories on television so they already haven't been watching."
The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag created by April Reign last year reappeared again this year because the exclusion of the work of artists of color is “systemic and ongoing,” Williams said.
“This is a conversation that has been ongoing not just with African-Americans but with people of color across the board because throughout the years, I mean pretty much since black people, people of color, have been represented in films they haven't necessarily been recognized for the work that they've done and people have become really frustrated by this," she said.
The Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs issued a statement in response to the call for more diversity saying the Academy will revamp the way that it recruits members. In the 1960s and 1970s the Academy tried to recruit younger people so it could remain vibrant and that’s critical now, Williams said, if it doesn’t want to lose the interest of other groups.
“Right now the voting Academy is 94 percent white, 76 percent male and the average age of the voters is 63,” Williams said. “The Academy needs to really reflect the country and it needs to really show and reflect what's going on in this nation or it really risks becoming obsolete not only with African-Americans but with other demographic groups."