Hollywood made a lukewarm attempt last night to acknowledge their failures at diversity. This strategy was summed up by Neil Patrick Harris’ early quip, “Tonight, we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest—I mean brightest,” followed by mellow laughter from the audience. Neither the joke nor its content was much of a surprise of course — the Oscars lack of diversity this year has been a topic of near constant debate. But it did seem like an apt metaphor for the general atmosphere: politically correct, without much substance behind the punchline.
Despite the fact that I generally enjoy the annual awards show, I am increasingly frustrated by the lack of representation I see on stage. Stories about our contemporary struggles, our diversity, our “Boyhood” seem to be left for the Internet, BET, and the few networks trying to capitalize on the success of “newfound” ethnic audiences.
This isn’t the 1970s — we need real diversity, not token white liberalism. This goes for hosts, executives and the nominees themselves. For better or for worse, these men and women have the floor at the moment, with the ability to reach millions of viewers around the world. When John Legend took to the stage last night, he exemplified the way this stage can be leveraged. “Nina Simone said it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times we’re in,” the singer noted. Yet, the only artists that seemed to focus on issues surrounding race and ethnicity were people of color, proving once again that the onus to expose and fight racial justice still falls on us.