responding to facts about inequality

No black Oscar nominees? Maybe that’s because all the movies this year from black actors or producers were crap. (VR Kaine)

The recent all-white Oscar nomination scandal provides lovely examples of how people respond to facts about inequality. At a glance, given that black people make up 12.3% of the population of the USA, it seems perfectly reasonable that in any given year there might not be black nominees.

The Oscars are the most prestigious movie awards in the world. The people who receive these awards are some of the most celebrated and revered (sadly, really) in the world. The impact of movie making on shaping our attitudes cannot be underestimated – and, as such, there is a responsibility to ensure it is representative of all areas of society.

Let’s look at some facts about the people who choose the Oscar winning heroes:

there are 6,028 voting members; 94 percent of them are white, 77 percent are men and 86 percent are over the age of 50. (International Business Times)

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Oscars are simply the rich, old, white man’s awards. If we turned these statistics on their head – 93% non white, 77% female and 86% under 50, it would be branded as the ‘Diversity Awards’ that mainstream media would give a 5 second ‘diversity’ slot. Our societies value all that is white and male, and we refuse to knock it on the head, because by the time we see the statistics, we’re already to programmed to think that this is the case because all that is white and male is superior.

If you’re a woman, not white, have a non-mainstream experience of sexuality, gender or health, you have a chance of being able to see the root discrimination, barriers and bias that have formed our societies, and continue to inform what is made and what is celebrated. If you are a white, mainstream man, chances are you that even if you can acknowledge there is inequality, you’ll be left with a suspicion it’s because women, people of colour and anyone else from a non-mainstream background, just aren’t up to standard. When the society you live in reflects *you* as the ideal, why would you want to change anything?

And a final observation from the UK media. In the ITV lunchtime news report on this, smugly covering racism in the USA, we were shown the best male actor, supporting male actor and songwriter (given that he was British). Not a whiff of interest in what any woman won. Equality irony runs thick and deep. The reason there are female and male categories is that if there was simply a ‘best person in acting role’ category, these would be no variation to the purely white male nominations. Because white men just do things better.

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