Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I Don't Care About The Oscars

In the last few days I've had friends and colleagues ask me about the Oscars controversy and the boycott some actors and activists are calling for. It's not that I don't care about black actors being slighted for their hard work, it just seems like our time could be better served worrying about the plight of African Americans outside of Hollywood. I could be wrong, but this fight seems like a small battle in the war for equality. I'm more concerned that too many graduates in the class of 2016 will be forced to work jobs instead of find careers. There are too many places in our country where education, accomplishment, or work ethic can't pierce the unconscious and conscious discriminatory practices used in human resource offices. I live in a town that's never had a black person work at a bank. Banks have been here for over two hundred and fifty years and not one bank has ever found a black person who could count. Why should I care more about a fight happening at the top of the socioeconomic scale when there are several winnable battles to be fought in our own communities?
I understand the desire to have black excellence recognized and rewarded, but all of us (independent of the physical, biological, or psychological traits that classify us as "other") should be more vigilant in accepting ourselves. Waiting for acceptance from society, is a trap; a trap that causes some to do or say anything.
For me, the most interesting part of this story was the Stacy Dash angle. I'm fascinated when members of the black bourgeois make comments counter intuitive to the black community as a whole. Usually, they do so with the understanding that the privileged bubble they live in is delicate. Their bubble only protects them as long as they have the approval of the people who put them in it. Once this became a big story the conservative media, trotted out their stable of black faces to refute the claims of racism. These folks are willing to spew any rhetoric that distinguishes them from the communities they're identified with. They exist in the space between rejecting their ancestral background and wanting full acceptance from greater society. No matter how fast they run from their roots there are no open arms waiting to embrace them. They live on borrowed time, but most of them haven't figured that out yet. They don't understand how fast America can fall out of love with them: see O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Tiger Woods, and Bill Cosby.
In 1986 Out of Africa won seven Oscars including Best Picture. That same year The Color Purple was nominated in eleven categories and didn't win any. Thirty years later Alice Walker's book is required reading in a number of courses throughout academia, and the play is in its twelfth year on Broadway. History always has the last word. If Will Smith winning an Oscar could further contribute to the clothing and feeding of kids living in poverty then I would be more upset. Yes, this passes the preliminary smell test for racial suspicion, but it's a footnote. I'm not pressed about the Oscars and most of you shouldn't be either. in 30 years we'll know which movies and actors defined this moment in history.