By: Hayley Regis

So the Oscar nominations are out, in case you haven’t heard. Despite this being a landmark year for women of colour achieving amazing things — Viola Davis’ Emmy, Serena Williams as Sportsperson of the Year — we are once again reminded that white people are just better at this ‘acting thing’ than we are. I don’t believe that is the case. Lest someone decry me as a reverse racist, let us delve further into this land of celebrating white mediocrity and the black actors who are typecast and fall by the wayside.

Hattie McDaniel was the first black person to win an award for supporting actress. In 1939 she played a character named ‘Mammy’ in Gone with the Wind, a character so laden with racist stereotypes that “problematic” doesn’t begin to cover it. The first time a woman of colour won an award for best actress was Halle Berry, in 2001. The movie Monster’s Ball was about a poor southern woman who falls in love with the prison guard who executed her husband. The movie is described as an “erotic romantic drama,” despite the first sex scene being drunken (i.e. without proper consent) “grief sex.” Despite Berry being fetishized and portrayed as a sex object, her performance was still the only time a woman of colour has ever won best actress.


We are no stranger to all-white nominees, especially women, but this year with movies like Straight Outta Compton and Creed, you’d think we would see some recognition for the acting of people of colour, especially considering the success of the films. Creed’s black writer-director Ryan Coogler, and black star Michael B. Jordan, were passed over, while Sylvester Stallone managed to get a nomination for best supporting. Compton didn’t get a nod from the academy, but the Screen Actors and Producers guilds nominated it for best picture. Needless to say this is a problem. We have actors like Idris Elba, Samuel L. Jackson and Will Smith, doing amazing work and someone drags the proverbial white carpet over them.

This year with movies like Straight Outta Compton and Creed, you’d think we would see some recognition for the acting of people of colour.

As Viola Davis said in her Emmy acceptance speech, “you can’t win an award for roles that are simply not there.” How are we supposed to fix the problems with representation, recognition, and general celebrations of people that may or may not be natural blondes? I grew up idolizing Michael Clarke Duncan, and Samuel L. Jackson because they were the only black people I saw in movies growing up. I’ve seen Snakes on a Plane more times than I care to admit, just because he’s in it. He doesn’t look like me, but he reminds me of my dad and his family. That’s the take-what-representation-you-can get mentality I grew up with. I am overwhelmingly saddened by the lack of diversity in this year’s nominations; it seems as if those wishing for a white Christmas had their wishes granted a little bit later this year.


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