As black Hollywood performers and civil rights groups have weighed in on the Academy Awards’ all-white acting nominees this year, so have voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Mark Reina, an openly gay Latino academy member who spent most of his career as an executive for Warner Bros. studios, recently penned a letter to the academy, blasting as “insulting and ignorant” its decision to expel some members in order to usher in more racial and gender diversity.
Reina, who addressed his letter to the academy's president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, said he was offended by the suggestion that the current makeup of the membership voting on film and acting nominations is doomed to repeat history without the changes. “Are you saying I am racist or have racist tendencies and need to be excluded from voting?” Reina wrote in the letter, published Tuesday by the Hollywood Reporter.
He continued by peppering Isaacs with further questions: “Are you saying if I worked another 10 years I would vote differently? Are you saying that I have not made my voting choices on quality but rather on the color of the artists’ skin? Are you saying that I have voted (consciously or unconsciously) to exclude women, members of the LGBT community and other minorities?”
Reina was responding to major changes to eligibility requirements for academy membership. The revamp of the rules includes the stripping of the voting status of members who have not been active in the industry for 10 years, and actively recruiting members from underrepresented groups instead of asking existing members to choose whom to let into the club.
Black performers and civil rights organizations have not been shy about noting how the academy’s membership is mostly white, male and over 50. Some have proposed a boycott of the 88th annual Academy Awards ceremony to make a statement about the lack of diversity in nominations and the academy’s voting membership. But Reina said he and his fellow voting members are being unfairly portrayed in the academy’s effort to address its critics.
“I take my membership responsibilities seriously and am honored to be part of the academy,” Reina wrote. “Please explain to me how denying me my right to vote makes the academy membership and the Oscar nominees more diverse?” Reina concluded in his letter.
It’s unclear when exactly the letter was sent to the academy, but Reina had not received a direct response as of Tuesday, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The Academy Awards are set to air Feb. 28 on ABC.