Hollywood does not fairly represent minorities in cinema. The Oscar nominations are proof of that.
In 2016, Hollywood actress Jada Pinkett Smith, indignant at the Academy Award nominations, joined the #OscarsSoWhite Twitter storm. Back then, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Yes, African-Americans were sparsely represented in all Oscar categories. But us guys, the other visible minorities—Asians, Indians, Hispanics, Middle Easterners and Native Americans—do not even have the kismet to be offered roles, let alone move to the next step on the nomination ladder, even though we are almost twice as many in numbers as African-Americans. Neither white nor black, we are the unfortunate “neithers” of today, the ones against whom unconcealed discrimination is allowed.
Yet this year, critics are shouting from the rooftop that the industry has suddenly changed, that the #OscarsSoWhite protest has been upended, and that racism in Hollywood has finally bit the dust. So, what did film executives do to atone for last year’s sin and to absolve themselves of condemnation?
For 2017, many minorities have been included, both in the Academy Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG), except that almost all these minorities are African-Americans. No “neithers” here or there: no Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans or Middle Easterners. Consolation crumbs were thrown at South Asians with a nomination for British actor Dev Patel, who failed to pick up the Best Supporting Actor award at the SAG but is nominated for the same category at the Oscars on February 26.
In the United States, as per the 2010 census, there are 48.9 million (16.1%) Hispanics and 15.3 million (5%) Asian-Americans. Together, Hispanics and Asian-Americans are almost double the African-American population. But in the world of Hollywood, this doesn’t seem to matter. Hispanics and Asian-Americans simply don’t count.
But see it this way: Asia is the biggest and most populated continent in the world. So, when one in four people is and looks South Asian (1.75 billion) and one in three is and looks East Asian (2.3 billion), can we really be ignored?
To all Hollywood types who are protesting Donald Trump’s immigration policy, what have you done for your immigrant brothers and sisters in the Oscar nominations? Or, at the very least, by accepting them, even marginally, as part of American society by affording them some worthy roles in cinema?
Unfortunately, Hollywood still naively conflates taking care of the two ends of the color spectrum, black and white, as end all and be all—as if this has resolved the race, color and creed problem.
No, Hollywood, I would never be called to audition or be cast as a white or a black character, nor would most Asians and many Hispanics. Our equality will never occur until you accept that we too are American. Is this turning a blind eye so you feel slickly acquitted, scot-free, and you get permission to freely live your glib life?
As an Indian-American actor-wannabe for the past three decades, and a Screen Actors Guild member for 25 years, the main reason I heard was: “You guys—Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans—do not complain!” We hoped things would naturally change instead of through protest, but not anymore. Some of us at least do and will protest. I urge that Asians, South Asians and Hispanics in America join forces, relinquish their individual identities and protest on the streets of Hollywood.
In 2017, Hollywood has once again failed to show any willingness to even listen to the pained voices of other minorities. This year was no exception, contrary to the industry’s avid avowal. How long do we have to wait?
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
Photo Credit: Sean Pavone Photo
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