I don’t think I can add anything substantial to the conversation about #OscarsSoWhite. I agree with much of what has been written already. I suppose I should be more outraged, but that would require some kind of element of surprise. When I heard about the nominations, my reaction was more along the lines of an eye roll and a heavy sigh of “oh, typical.”
In my own specific part of the world, in which I am a minority, I am, in fact, surrounded by white males. It isn’t necessarily surprising to me to see so many of them in my neighborhood, in businesses, on television, or in the movies. The Academy of Motion Pictures has just over 6,000 members, 93% of whom are white and 76% are male. I have to imagine that for them it’s also unsurprising to be surrounded by other white males. It’s unfortunate. It’s also largely systemic within the northwestern hemisphere.
This problem runs so much deeper than this one awards show. So many people, consciously or unconsciously, see white as the default race and the default human experience. Neil Gaiman touched on it recently on his Tumblr page regarding one viewer’s experience of his book Anansi Boys. A fan had asked why Neil Gaiman didn’t explicitly describe the main characters as being black, because the fan didn’t realize they weren’t white until after reading the book multiple times. Here is Neil’s response:
“I’m sorry you read Fat Charlie and Spider and Mr Nancy and their families as white on first read, but that might have something to do with the way that people’s heads reading a book can default all characters to white, if other information is not immediately supplied, which is a very bad habit, and one I hope Anansi Boys might help people to shed.”
The thing white folks need to realize is that while they default to a white mindset, non-white folks don’t. There was a fantastic article in the New York Times last week which shared a number of anecdotes about what it’s actually like for non-male, non-white people to work in Hollywood. I identified with a lot of the comments made by Eva Longoria and America Ferrera. Truthfully, nothing was earth-shattering. No one in the article had been physically harmed by the industry, but a series of small indignities really add up over a lifetime. Microaggression is real, folks. If it seems inconsequential, it’s because you haven’t experienced it. Don’t dismiss another person’s experience – this world is in desperate need of empathy these days. It’s part of the whole putting-yourself-in-someone-else’s-shoes thing (rest in peace, Harper Lee).
I will watch the Oscars tonight, along with thousands of other people. I’ll get a kick out of it like I always do. I can only hope that all of this talk about inclusion doesn’t die after the last statue is passed out.