After the lights have dimmed at the 91st Oscars, many of us are waking up to the following things: Spike Lee, who has been in the movie business for over 30 years, finally got an Oscar. Ruth Carter, who has been around just as long as Spike and has worked on some of his projects including Malcolm X and Do the Right Thing, finally got one after being nominated three times prior. Also, it would be hard to miss the fact that Mahershala Ali won a 2nd Best Supporting actor award in less than 5 years.
It’s a great feeling that after so many years of neglect, it took one hashtag to begin turning things around, but at the same time, there are murmurings…that a lot of these awards are undeserving of their work and are pretty much ‘gimmies’.
When I see and read the undercurrent of some of the discontent from people, especially in the Black community, about last night’s wins, the question that I ask is, “Isn’t this what we asked for?” Wasn’t the whole idea of the #OscarsSoWhite movement to call out the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on its BS that people of color were not getting their just due? As they always say: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Just a short while ago, it seemed like no matter what, if a Black person was nominated in any category, we were just lucky to even be nominated, let alone win. I may be in the minority (pun not intended) to believe that the year that Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won, those were ‘gimmies’ considering their other bodies of work that they should have been considered for. Yet there are people skeptical today because after last night, there were many wins where people of color are involved?
Let’s stop the madness with this. We are at a point that we are finally getting our due because enough people demanded it. The #OscarsSoWhite movement pushed enough against Hollywood that they scrutinized their process and started making changes to their membership. The movement pushed so much so that Cheryl Boone Isaacs stepped in and pushed for more minority and women membership. This made it possible to see people like Jordan Peele get an Oscar for Get Out, and movies such as Fences and Moonlight get wins when no one thought they would.
Last night, a lot of us knew way down inside that Black Panther wasn’t going to win (and were miffed that Ryan Coogler didn’t even get a Best Director nod), but in these last few years (last night included), it’s been good to see that the Oscars have been worth paying attention to. Now, it feels like there is a larger chance of winning. There is a feeling that the odds of us winning these awards are greater than they have ever been in the 91 years of its existence. We are no longer showing up at the awards just to sit and watch as they call us for the nomination knowing we won’t win…but it’s nice that they called our name and flashed our picture on the screen. We are now showing up not only expecting our name to be called, but to be called because our work is recognized and we are on equal footing to take home that statue because our work is the best.
Let’s not downplay the significance of one hashtag. It’s doing what we asked for and in its own way it’s working a lot faster to bring some equity in one portion of America and pop culture. Here is hoping that other movements will move just as fast.