How #OscarsSoBlack Came At Too High a Price

The Academy will never “Do the Right Thing”

Ezinne Ukoha
9 min readFeb 25, 2019

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been 4 years since the viral hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite was launched by April Reign because most of us can distinctively remember when it took flight, and proved durable enough to warrant the complete attention of the Academy.

It was the 2016 award season, and the Oscar nominations were unapologetically White, and this not only drew the ire of Black Twitter, but it also necessitated the disapproving input of Black A-listers like Jada Pinkett Smith, who posted a video explaining the travesty of Will Smith’s best actor snub.

In all honesty, Will Smith didn’t demonstrate his worthiness of an Oscar nomination for his role in Concussion for many reasons, but mainly because of the terrifically bad accent that he assigned to his character, Dr. Bennet Omalu, who is an Igbo man, and definitely deserved the appropriate representation.

But in the midst of the anger and frustration was the underground movement that made its way above ground, and into the outdated statutes of a traditionally biased institution, that desperately needed an overhaul.

And the revisions were made almost immediately under the tutelage of then AMPAS President, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who promptly established the Academy initiative A2020, aimed at:

“improving representation of diversity — age, gender, race, national origin, point-of-view — and will include a five-year plan to focus on industry practices and hiring.”

While the swift and notable strides being made to revamp the inflexibility and formidable exclusion policies of Hollywood’s “all-White” aesthetic was impressive and encouraging enough to temporarily assuage the irritation of skeptics, there was also the outrageousness of the facts, that proved how the system had been set up for decades to primarily foster the global viability of White creatives at the expense of non-White talents.

Four years later, and there is no doubt that the hashtag that famously shamed White Hollywood into submission, by also forcing the population of new Academy members with darker skin and non-Christian names, has somewhat lived up to the expectations of its founder, and the…

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