by Sam Prince @phisammajamma
I’m not a big fan of fashion, but I love controversy. As a black man, or a man of African-American descent (not sure what we’re calling ourselves these days), I keep my ear to the ground for any and all plays of the “race card.”
You probably don’t remember and don’t care, but in 2013 fashion models Naomi Campbell and Iman, spoke out against racism in the fashion industry. Good for them. Much hasn’t changed since.
Just this week Jada Pinkett Smith, actress extraordinaire and wife to Will Smith spoke out against racism amongst the Academy Awards. For the second year in a row all of the Oscar nominees are white. Shocking, right?
In response to this Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee are boycotting this year’s awards.
Can we take a moment and dig deeper into the act of “boycotting?”
First, for boycotting to be effective the boycotted party has to care. The boycotted party doesn’t necessarily care because they see the wrong in their actions; they care because boycotting affects their bottom line.
Therefore, an effective boycott holds a particular business or industry captive, requesting a ransom of sorts. In the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, the bus industry was held captive for the ransom of ending segregated busing.
In Jada Pinkett Smith’s case, she’s hoping to see more black performers nominated.
So next year if one black performer is nominated, is that enough to end the boycott? How about two? Or maybe five? It’s easy to see where the boycott begins, but where does it end? And is the black community supposed to boycott based off of Jada Pinkett Smith’s standards, or will we elect a board of black elders to oversee the boycott?
I don’t mean to lambaste Jada Pinkett Smith, because I believe she has good intentions. I just hope to give her, and any future race card wielders direction.
“The real and only question regarding the ethics of means and ends is, and always has been, ‘Does this particular end justify this particular means?’” – Saul Alinsky
Without having defined a particular “end,” a boycott is an unsatisfactory means.
However Jada Pinkett Smith does have a valid point. According to BBC News, “In the last 20 years the Academy has given 32 Oscar nominations to black actors…That represents 8% of the total number of nominees in that time.”
Those numbers have some blacks in an outrage, but there is a logical reason behind them. It is a quantitative, as oppose to a qualitative game. Quality films starring black performers are shot each year. There were a few that stood out this year, Concussion and Creed being two of them. The issue is that there are NOT ENOUGH quality films starring black performers.
Hollywood is overwhelmingly white. That’s not their fault. Hollywood responds to the desires of its base, which is also overwhelmingly white. There are probably more good movies starring white performers that don’t receive nominations, than their black counterparts.
So if there are 100 quality movies made each year, and only three of them star a black performer, then the likelihood of a nomination is slim to none. Until there are significantly more quality black films, then the trend of nominal black nominations will continue.
AND IT WILL CONTINUE, because that’s what its base wants.
Now, if Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee have a problem with that, and I think they do have a point, then they need to call for the complete separation of black performers, directors and etcetera from Hollywood. Then they need to take all of those aforementioned separated peoples and create their own “Hollywood,” along with their own yearly awards where blacks will be in the majority.
Until then we are subject to the desires of the majority. When what America wants changes, what Hollywood wants will change too. That’s less about being racist, and more about just being a business.