NYIT Reacts: #OscarsSoWhite

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The Oscars

The Oscars

In light of the recent controversy surrounding this year’s Academy Awards, Professor King Cheek, Professor of Social Sciences at NYIT and author of I See A New America: It Ain’t Like The One I Used To Know, offered his insight into the role racial tension has in America, and the role it played in the decision-making at this year’s Oscars.

He was quick to state that it’s “not likely” racial tension led to the lack of minority representation at this year’s Oscars. The issue more likely stems from a “lack of diversity in decision makers to reflect Hollywood itself,” and that “in the absence of diversity, the process becomes deficient.” This belief seems to be the popular opinion on the subject. When asked what he thought about the matter, Adjunct Professor at NYIT, Andre Doughty, stated that he “doesn’t believe [racial] tension exists in Hollywood” and that the issue at this year’s Academy Awards was fueled by a number of factors, including the lack of racial diversity of the Oscars in recent years, as well as the black lives matter movement.

Its one thing to acknowledge that there’s an issue, but it’s another to take the proper steps to correct the issue. As Professor King put it, “we have to be careful not to make judgements, where skin color allows entitlement, and that there is no merit in equal participation at the Oscars, which should be completely performance based.” It’s more important to fix the issue of lack of racial diversity in Hollywood at its core, than to apply a band-aid, and to make more racially diverse nominations in response to social media pressure.

The American public finds it easy to get carried away with the idea of being politically correct in response to racism, to the point where efforts to correct racism in America in recent years, actually detriment progression. Gio Aguilar, an NYIT undergraduate student majoring in Communication Arts, expressed that, “the media’s blowing it [2016 Oscars] out of proportion in all honesty,” and that, “the media creates racism where there isn’t.” There’s an unfortunate byproduct to this kind of media manipulation. Professor King stressed that “the system of racism has enslaved all of America,” and this issue was brought to forefront of our attention during the election of President Obama. He feels that people are pressured to think a certain way, and act a certain way, because they don’t want to be perceived as a racist or politically incorrect, and that they don’t want to seem desensitized to the issue of racism. “There is a higher level of fear of racism.”

In contrast to the issue of lack of diversity at the Oscars, the question was raised, what place intentionally segregated media outlets and award shows, like the BET awards, hold in our society? As well as, what will happen to such media outlets as we progress forward, as a society, on the issue of race? It was pointed out, by Andre, that “things like BET only exists because lack of integration forced [their creation] in the first place.” The Oscars, and other similar award shows, have traditionally reflected the Caucasian predominance of Hollywood itself, giving little room for other racial groups to receive their own respective share of the spotlight. Gio Aguilar stated that he doesn’t believe the BET awards are racist, even though it’s an award show which is categorized by race, because “the point of the BET awards is to appreciate one another.”

When asked his opinion, Professor King Cheek responded with a great conundrum we face in America going forward, “Should America move towards becoming color blind?” Both possible answers to the question hold merit, as he sees it, which is evident in near fifty-fifty response he’s gotten over the years when asking that question to his students. America can progress forward and become one of two things, as he put it “America can be a great salad bowl of diversity… where we all co-exist, and appreciate our differences” or we can “blend together as one, like a fruit smoothie, or a great melting pot.” There is no easy answer to this question; which is why Professor King Cheek hopes that we, America as a whole, can realize that “we are at a point of a great conversation about race” and that, hopefully, “we can use race as a platform to talk and share with each other.”

One thing’s for certain, we don’t spend enough time appreciating one another for who we are. We shouldn’t have to be arguing about diversity, or lack thereof, at the Oscars which are #SoWhite this year, because our appreciation for one another should just come naturally. It may take some time for everyone to get along with and respect one another, but hopefully America can make that change before we get a sequel to Straight Outta Compton.

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