Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be

Oscars Leaving Black Americans Blue…

The Oscars are known for many odd customs and bits of superstition, but American Blacks best know the Color Purple Curse. Viola Davis was upset by the veteran Meryl Streep at the Oscars, even though Davis had won the Screen Actors Guild award days earlier.

The Los Angeles Times “24 Frames” blog this morning noticed the upset, but wrote it off to Streep doing a character based on a real-life person.


Since 1929, there have been two black male actors to win Best Actor. Sidney Poitier for “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” in 1967 and Denzell Washington for “Training Day” in 2002.  The only Best Actress award handed out to a black woman was to Halle Berry for “Monsters Ball,” also in 2002.

Blacks have had to fight tooth-and-nail to get any recognition from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scienes (AMPAS). Denzell Washington effectively dared them not to give him the Oscar that he won in 2002, the year that the Academy went out of its way to prove that it was not racist, sending Halle Berry and Washington home with the coveted golden statuette, and giving a life achievement nod to actor Sidney Poitier.

No other person of color who is not a foreign national has won the top actor nod. Spanish actress Penelope Cruz is the only hispanic to take home a trophy for Vicky Cristina Barcelona in 2008.

A new University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) study entitled “Not Quite a Breakthrough: The Oscars and Actors of Color” predicted that Davis would have a tough road at the Oscars.

“Did 2002 truly herald a new era for actors of color?” the study asked.  “Our study discovered some progress for actors of color, but we also found considerable continuing racial/ethnic disparity.”

The study found that:

  • All best actress winners since 2002 have been white.
  • No winner in any acting category during the last ten years has been Latino, Asian American, or Native American.
  • Oscar winners and nominees of color make fewer movies per year after their nominations than their white peers do.
  • Oscar winners and nominees of color are more likely to work in television,  look down upon and “considered lower-status work” by the film community.
  • Oscar winners and nominees of color are less likely to receive subsequent nominations.

The other problem is that black actors seldom are recognized for playing the same kinds of roles that white actors play. People in positions of power, particularly those who are good guys, are too infrequently ripe for Oscar contention.

It’s not that Meryl Streep is not a great actress, or deserving of awards. She is. We also know that the Academy often misses seminal achievements in all actor and actresses careers.  The term “they’re due” often is tagged to a good, not great role or a lesser motion picture that pulls the big awards out of their AMPAS.

The role Ms. Davis played, though, socially relevant acts of bravery, is the kind that white actresses like Sally Field played in “Norma Rae” or Julia Roberts played in “Erin Brokovich.”   They are, among white actresses, the kind of films and roles that normally garner big wins for the actors and actresses making the portrayal.

The L.A. Times is dead wrong.  The 1985 stigma of the Color Purple, up for 11 Academy Awards, which received zero still lingers.  The most blatant snub was in the Supporting Actress category, where the majority of nominees were from the movie, including Oprah Winfrey, who gave the towering performance of her brief acting career. She was bypassed for Prizzi’s Honor actress Angelica Huston, daughter of director John Huston. White and inside, that was a slider that the Black actresses did  not have.

Supporting has been a category that has seen several black actors and actresses take home Oscars, but the Best Actor category still remains the domain of the white and powerful.

In the great civil rights march forward away from the days of slavery, one hallmark will be when two deserving black actors can win Oscars on one night, and actors of color are as much a rule in the winners circle as actors whose pale skin still gives them advantage.

My shiny two.

About Brian Ross

Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian and short filmmaker who blogs for Truth2Power, the Huffington Post, and the Daily KOS, among others.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Past on T2P

Stay Connected.

Catch up. Catch on! Text T2Power to 22828!

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Top Posts & Pages

Get Forward Thinking

Sign up here for Forward Thinking, a monthly newsletter delivered to your email box with special features from the various RossGroupFT publications, including new titles from RossBooksFT.
For Email Marketing you can trust

Copyright Notice

The (T2P) website and all text, design and artwork elements not part of the standard WordPress template or an article, and all T2P logos and trademarks are copyright ©2011 and future years by TheRossGroupFT, LLC. All rights reserved. All articles' text is the copyright of its author. T2P is a forum for free speech of its invited authors, and the opinions and information that they present are their own. TheRossGroupFT, its principals, agents and assigns are not responsible for the opinions or content of any article.
TheRossGroupFT - Forward Thinking for New Media

Writing for T2P

We're looking for passionate, out-of-the-box, outside-the-Beltway writing and thinking. To find out more about how to audition your work for us, click here.

Follow t2PTweets on Twitter!

About Truth-2-Power

A phrase coined by the Quakers during in the mid-1950's, "Speak truth to power," was a call for the United States to stand firm against fascism and other forms of totalitarianism; it is a phrase that seems to unnerve political right, with reason. The Founding Fathers of United States risked their lives in order to speak truth to the power of King George and the mighty British Empire. It was and is considered courageous. Join us!

LIKE us on Facebook!

The Forward Thinking Store

Get your t2p gear at the Forward-Thinking Store

Share us on LinkedIN

%d bloggers like this: