Christine Flowers, 2/28/2016 [Archive]

Race the Next Oscar Snubject

By Christine Flowers

Despite a few recent polls that suggest most Americans don't really care about the Oscars, I don't think I was alone on Sunday watching gorgeous women walk the red carpet in their gowns, handsome men strut by in elegant black tie, and Bruce Jenner do a great impression of Caitlyn Jenner. The Oscars are the gold standard of awards shows.

At the beginning, the whole affair was pretty low key, and involved a dinner and a couple of microphones. As the years progressed, however, it became the equivalent of a coronation, only it happened every year and our royalty was a lot better looking than England's.

There were a few controversies here and there. One year, George C. Scott boycotted the whole affair even though the Academy had chosen him to receive the Best Actor award for "Patton." Another year, Marlon Brando sent a Native American activist to pick up his Oscar for the "Godfather."

One year, there was even a streaker. The undistinguished fellow barged onto the stage behind David Niven, who had the genius comeback: "Isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?"

But recently, the Academy Awards have been pretty quiet, leaving the craziness and the noteworthy controversies to the Grammys, where Kanye West has spent the last few years calling everyone except his white wife and her family racist.

Now that we have resolved the problem with the Native Americans, crotchety old men and nudists, there is only one thing left for the Oscars to confront: racism. Of course, they have given it the nice, high-minded label of "lack of diversity," but we all know that they're not talking about integrating conservatives into the mix of presenters and nominees.

The only type of diversity the complainers seem concerned about is the kind that is only, and you will pardon the expression, skin deep. There was a violent backlash against the fact that none of the twenty main acting nominees were black. There was a slight nod to the fact that very few other minorities were included in the acting categories, but the overall anger was focused on the fact that there would be no shot at a black Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor or Supporting Actress.

The stupid hashtag #Oscarssowhite became ubiquitous, almost as trendy as #Blacklivesmatter. It became all the rage to say that you were going to boycott the Oscars because your husband wasn't nominated for an award.

Seriously, a lot of members of the Hollywood elite fell in line and took politically correct umbrage at the fact that minority actors and actresses were "snubbed." They accused the voting member of the Academy of being stupid enough to actually believe ethnicity was irrelevant when measuring excellence. They complained about how rude it was for mainstream society to ignore the achievements of minorities in the industry, thereby forcing them to finance their own awards shows like BET and Miss Black America where ethnicity was irrelevant (oh, wait . . . ).

And when some white actors tried to explain that this preoccupation with color was counter-productive, people like the notoriously racist Meryl Streep, Michael Caine, and Charlotte Rampling (who waited 50 years for her first nomination) they were called the sort of names that would make even Spike Lee blush.

As someone who works with immigrants, I get the importance of diversity. Latino, Arab, Asian, African, they are all wonderful spices added to the Cream of Wheat mix, rescuing our melting pot from being a bland and easily digestible stew. But the idea that we owe people anything more than an opportunity is as offensive as telling someone their color was more important than their skill.

Fortunately, there are some people who do get it. At a recent awards ceremony, Jamie Foxx, who won a Best Actor Oscar for "Ray," said, "I was with Sidney Poitier just a couple of weeks ago, and in 1963 all he asked for was an opportunity to act. That's all we have to do: opportunity. If you turn the camera on and say 'OK, win an award, action' we'll all have taken 10 steps back. It's all about the art. Who cares about anything else?"

#RevKingWouldBeProud.

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©2016 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at cflowers1961@gmail.com.

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