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#OscarsSoWhite Brings To Light Lack of Diversity Within 2015 Oscar Nominees And The Academy

Jessica Moulite |
January 15, 2015 | 4:13 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

#OscarsSoWhite was the top trending item on Twitter for hours. (Jessica Moulite/Neon Tommy)
#OscarsSoWhite was the top trending item on Twitter for hours. (Jessica Moulite/Neon Tommy)
After the release of the 2015 Academy Awards nominees Thursday morning, crowds took to Twitter to express their thoughts on perhaps “the whitest Oscars since 1998.” 

April Reign, an attorney and blogger, created the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite with the goal of highlighting the homogeneity of this year’s Oscars nominations.

“This is an ongoing trend we’ve seen through the years, both behind and in front of the camera. There’s a lack of presence of people of color,” Reign says. 

Writer and inclusive feminist Ijeoma Oluo used the hashtag after she thought “it would be a good way to vent a bit about the frustration at yet another denial of the humanity of people of color.”

Although #OscarsSoWhite allowed people of color “an outlet” and “good laugh” through tweeting, Oluo stresses the importance of recognizing “an intersectional approach to diversity in entertainment.”

“These things seem to go in a hierarchy… I'd love it if we didn't all have to wait in line… It's ridiculous. But you can't discuss race without feminism, and you can't discuss feminism without race. The powers that be would like to keep it separate - one thing at a time,” Oluo says. She adds, “That way they can slow it all down. They like to tell us that it's divisive, but it's the opposite - it's opening up movements to all those who have a stake in it. But we need to see the whole picture.”

SEE ALSO: On Reel Diversity: Adding Color To The Casting Call

Immigration activist Gabe Ortiz describes using #OscarsSoWhite as the perfect way to express the frustration he felt about two films about civil rights activists, Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King, Jr., being shut out of the 2015 Academy Awards. 

Ortiz also points to the irony between how “Latinos still struggle for representation in big-budget Hollywood films, [yet] will be there behind the scenes building the show.”

“It's hypocritical to me -- Latinos are good enough to help create the show, but not good enough to be in the show itself,” Ortiz says.

He does, however, believe there have been major benefits to the hashtag going viral, including an interest in discussing the make-up of the Academy itself. 

“It's overwhelmingly white and male. New Academy members can't be introduced unless they are either sponsored by other Academy members, or are themselves nominated through films,” Ortiz says. 

Of the 5,765 voting members of the Academy, 94% are white and 77% male, with the average age of an Oscar voter is 62, as reported by the LA Times

“If you aren't nominating people of color, how do you expect to build up a more representative membership?” 

Reign also affirms there must be more diversity in all areas of entertainment, including the boardroom, in order to avoid a repeat of this year’s Oscars snub to films with predominately casts of color like “Selma.”

“If it’s not just old, white males maybe other films will receive more recognition. The studios should all focus their budgets better on promoting all films, not the ones that they think are going to be Blockbusters,” Reign says. 

Jamin Keene is a filmmaker/actor and says he frequently sees casting notices for white actors even when the same story could have been told with a more diverse cast. 

“That makes me upset and that's where I see limitations in mainstream work for minorities,” Keene says. 

As such, Keene emphasizes the need for people to move past their own limited worldviews in order to understand diverse storytelling. This is what he hopes for with the future of the Academy’s members. On the other hand, Keene recognizes this may also be the beginning of the end for the Oscars as “the highest honor in filmmaking.” This comes after stagnant viewership ratings over the years. 

 “Maybe Oscars’ time is running out and this is just all evidence of a slow leak,” Keene says. 

Despite whatever the future may hold, the #OscarsSoWhite’s creator wants her hashtag to wake people up to the concerns held by people of color with respect to representation. 

“Diversity is an ongoing issue that must be addressed and fairness is an issue that must be addressed. It is not going away,” Reign says. 

Reach Staff Reporter Jessica Moulite here. Follow her on Twitter.



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