While the Oscars have never been seen as the beacon of racial progress and equality, this year’s nominations were particularly insidious: for the first time since 2011, all twenty actor nominees are white. In an interview this past Sunday, Selma lead David Oyelowo accused the Academy of giving preference to black actors in subservient roles. When asked what it was like to be the subject of “Oscar snub outrage,” Oyelowo responded:
“I’d say to people ‘Calm down; it’s gonna be fine – Be angry! Be angry!’” . . .
Generally speaking, we, as black people, have been celebrated more for when we are subservient, when we are not being leaders or kings or being at the center of our own narrative driving it forward.
To me, Denzel Washington should have won for playing Malcolm X. To me. To me, if I asked all of you here what film Sidney Poitier won his Academy Award for – In The Heat of the Night? He wasn’t even nominated for In the Heat of The Night. He won for Lilies of the Field. . .
We’ve just got to come to the point whereby there isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy, a notion of who black people are . . . not just in the Academy, just in life generally.
We have been slaves, we have been domestic servants, we have been criminals, we have been all of things, but we have been leaders, we have been kings, we’ve been those who’ve changed the world.
And those films, where that is the case, are so hard to get made.” [Hollywood Reporter]
Oyewolo pointed to the story of King himself as example: King was assassinated “almost fifty years ago. There has been no film where King has been the center of his own narrative until now.” Hollywood, the actor argued, “told stories through the eyes of white protagonists” because of “white guilt.”
“You have a very nice white person who holds black people’s hands through their own narrative.”
The recent success of films like 12 Years a Slave and The Butler, Oyewolo said, made it that much easier for Selma to get made.
Celebrity interviews often play it safe, so it’s nice to hear someone say something about something, sometimes. Check it out for yourself.