African Americans left out of this year’s Oscar Nominations have again complained, but the focus seems not to be on diversity but rather on African Americans. Minority minorities and other people of color left out of the movie industry are being left out in this debate, too. The issue of the Hollywood bias isn’t about being black
People of color have a right to be upset with the way Hollywood not only excludes them from the “party,” but also shorts them on programing, both on the big screen in theaters and also on television.
But it’s wrong to call for a boycott of the Oscars on February 28 just to help one group in that large pool of “People of Color.”
There are a lot of people of color who won’t be helped by the criticism leveled by African American actors and actresses, led by Jada Pinkett Smith and backed by her husband Will Smith (who didn’t get an Oscar nomination for his film “Concussions,” which honestly wasn’t that good), and black filmmaker Spike Lee.
It’s actually kind of ironic. All three of these actors and actresses and producers have done so well personally when it comes to making films, getting media attention and being showcased on the national news.
You have to wonder if there isn’t another agenda, because there are so many other “people of color” that they are not talking about.
I’m not saying I disagree with the complaint that Hollywood is biased, racist and discriminatory. It is.
As an American Arab who is Christian, I grew up in this society watching Hollywood movie after movie disparage and slander and discriminate against Arabs. Studies have shown that almost 99 percent of all the movies made portray all Arabs as terrorists. And, in an even great slap in the face, the movie producers don’t even use Arabs for any of the roles.
So I can understand it when Spike Lee complains about the Oscars not nominating any black-produced movies, black actors or films that are about blacks. I can understand when Jada Pinkett Smith, her Oscar snubbed husband Will Smith and Spike Lee complain that the majority of people making the decisions are “white.”
But what I can’t understand is that victims of discrimination respond not by championing principle and ethics, but instead respond by selfishly asking, “What about us?”
In other words, if more blacks were nominated for Oscars, everything would be OK?
No. It won’t be OK. It won’t be better. People of color will continue to be discriminated against. Leveraging your own selfish needs against the immoral conduct of Hollywood filmmakers and the Hollywood press won’t change the racism. But it will give you a personal benefit. Maybe a special Oscar. Or more money and support from Hollywood movie companies. You’ll probably get invites to the big movie openings and your scripts and movie ideas will be given special attention.
But the rest of us, the “Minority Minorities,” those people of color will continue to be ostracized, excluded and discriminated as you benefit from the proposed Boycott of the Oscars.
What really needs to happen is to change the system from top to bottom.
Quotas don’t cut it. In fact, quotas are insulting, suggesting that the only way a good film can be produced in Hollywood is if the movie company goes out of its way to hire a person of a specific color to produce or direct or act in a major role.
No. We need to educate Americans better. The truth is that the movie industry is a business. Supply and demand drive the money that flows in that business. If people didn’t give Spike Lee’s 1989 film “Do the Right Thing” an Oscar, it’s probably because the film did not resonate with everyone.
It was a good movie. But I always thought that Spike Lee was getting the “Minority Red Carpet” just to make him happy and quell complaints of bias. When African Americans complain, the industry listens. But when they stop complaining, the industry stops listening, especially to the rest of us.
Over the years, African Americans have done very well in the film and entertainment industry. Their movies and their books are being produced and published. Although some of the films portray blacks in racist and negative light, many other films portray blacks in a positive light.
There are many films that tell the African American story from an African American point of view. I remember the status-quo breaking TV series, “Roots,” back in the early 1970s while I was serving in the U.S. Military during the Vietnam War, which forced America to change how it looked at black people.
How many dozens of movies have been produced that have presented African Americans in a positive light?
The pattern has slowly filtered down to other minorities, including Hispanics and Asians, “People of Color” who also are benefitting from the complaints of bias in the media industry.
But what about the rest of us?
I’m Arab. When will we have our turn? When will Hollywood produce a movie or TV show called “Everyone Loves Abdullah?”
They won’t. Because the problem isn’t really with Hollywood, the business and the industry that wants to profit.
It’s with our American society, which doesn’t want to buy movies and films where Arabs have their own comedy sitcoms, tell their own stories in movies or publish their own books.
America is a racist country. And the problem goes far deeper than what Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and Spike Lee would have you believe.
But they don’t want to go there when the choice is to either help everyone who suffers, or just help themselves.
They’re no different than the “White Movie Industry” that discriminates against blacks.
I doubt that the host of the 88th Academy Awards, Chris Rock, who is black, will make mention of that during his opening remarks.
No one will listen to me. I’m just one of those minority minorities pushed down to the bottom of an ugly ladder of racism we call America!
Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist, managing editor of The Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, and writer at Al Jazeera English. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania.
To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.