The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences risks losing its prominence if it doesn’t take more steps to increase and promote racial diversity among those voting on Oscar nominations and greenlighting films, a group of leading civil rights organizations said Monday. To help Hollywood along in its struggle for inclusion, the National Urban League, the National Action Network and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation announced they've requested a meeting with the academy and film industry leaders.
“It seems that the academy’s board of trustees believes diversity is a problem that will resolve itself,” the organizations said in a statement, referring to an ongoing controversy over two consecutive years of all-white nominees in major acting categories. “If the academy cannot break this vicious circle, it risks its own irrelevancy. “
Following the recent announcement of nominations for the 88th annual Academy Awards, African-American community leaders and several well-known black entertainers expressed outrage and announced plans to boycott this year’s awards ceremony, set for Feb. 28. Soon after the controversy erupted, the academy announced plans to diversify its mostly white, male and over-50 membership roster. But similar promises of pro-diversity initiatives were announced after last year’s nominations were revealed, the civil rights organizations noted.
“Therefore, it rings hollow when the academy – for the second year in a row – promises a greater push for diversity in response to another all-white acting nomination slate,” read the groups' statement. They also acknowledged the potential challenges of changing a decades-old institution and industry.
“A lack of diversity in the entertainment industry is a complex issue without a simple solution,” the groups stated. “We are well-aware the problem neither begins nor ends with awards nominations… Award nominations translate into box-office success, and the potential for box-office success determines which projects are greenlighted.”
The civil rights coalition promised that it would be ready to “present a clear and specific blueprint for moving forward” on accountability in the Academy and the film industry. Those who do tune in to the Oscars broadcast will likely be watching to see how the academy acknowledges the diversity controversy.
Comedian Chris Rock, who is black, is set to host the ceremony. Rock was reportedly rewriting his opening monologue in light of the diversity issue. The Academy Awards are scheduled to air Feb. 28 on ABC.