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why spike lee and jada pinkett smith are boycotting the oscars

Jada is calling for people of color to reject the institution completely.

by Sasha Geyer
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Jan 19 2016, 8:27pm

Just days after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its snow white nominations for the upcoming award ceremony — news which prompted #OscarsSoWhite to trend across social media — award-winning filmmaker and actor Spike Lee has confirmed a personal boycott.

Earlier today, Lee posted a commemorative Instagram image celebrating Martin Luther King Jr Day. In the caption, Lee quoted King saying "There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic (sic), Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It's Right."

Lee explained that despite receiving an honorary Oscar in November, the Academy's continued failure (this is the second year in a row where no black actors were nominated) to recognize non-white actors has lead him to take a stand: "For Too Many Years When The Oscars Nominations Are Revealed, My Office Phone Rings Off The Hook With The Media Asking Me My Opinion About The Lack Of African-Americans And This Year Was No Different. For Once, (Maybe) I Would Like The Media To Ask All The White Nominees And Studio Heads How They Feel About Another All White Ballot."

Lee noted the lack of diversity and recognition wasn't solely the Academy's doing. He blamed "The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks" for controlling what projects are produced, and concluded that until minorities are in the rooms where those decisions are made, the industry won't change and "The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White."

In response to the continuing criticism, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has argued that they made a concerted effort to make this year's show more inclusive. We assume she's referring to the fact that Chris Rock is hosting, and the show will be produced by Reginald Hudlin.

The Oscars' history of selective inclusivity was also at the center of Jada Pinkett Smith's statements over the weekend. In a Facebook post, the actress and mom of Willow and Jaden said, "At the Oscars... people of color are always welcomed to give out awards... even entertain, but we are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments". 

She argued that rather than pushing to be recognized, people of color should reject the institution completely: "Begging for acknowledgment, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power...Let's let the academy do them, with all grace and love. And let's do us differently." 

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Image via Wikimedia Commons