Oscars So White No More: Academy Awards Are Making History In Diversity

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Hollywood was rattled by a major controversy earlier this year when the Oscars announced nominees for the 2016 Academy Awards. Overwhelmingly White and male, the pool of talent up for awards at the ceremony became the target of societal blowback at a level that made the story ubiquitous in the media. Criticism of the Academy became so prevalent that a Twitter hashtag – #OscarsSoWhite – became a headline, and host Chris Rock addressed the controversy in his opening statement. As powerful as the reverberations were at the time, the notion of change in Hollywood was, for the most part, considered a far-off ideal. However, news emanating from the inner sanctum of the Oscars office today is evidence of progress.

The Oscars’ Voting Body May Have Twice the Women & Minorities by 2020

Yesterday (June 29), Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced the new Class of members, an annual ushering in of industry professionals to the voting body which ultimately decides nominees for the Oscars. The announcement rarely makes news outside of the film-making world, but this year’s installment is likely the most noteworthy in the Academy’s history. 41% of Class 2016 are people of color, and 46% are women. That is a massive difference from years prior; historically, only 8% of members of the Academy have been minorities and only a quarter have been female. If nothing else, today’s announcement is certifiable proof in the power of social pressure on institutions to change.

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In fact, Isaacs (who is a woman of color) made public statements during the #OscarsSoWhite campaign vowing to double the diversity in the ranks of the Academy, so today’s announcement is not necessarily surprising. It is, however, historic. Of the precedent-setting news Isaacs said “[w]e encourage the larger creative community to open its doors wider, and create opportunities for anyone interested in working in this incredible and storied industry.”

New members of the Academy include Ice Cube, Vivica A. Fox, Marlon Wayans, Anthony Anderson, and Regina King.