Danny Cardwell's picture

    I Don't Care About The Oscars

    In the last few days I've had friends and colleagues ask me about Oscar snubs, and the boycott some actors and activists are calling for. It's not that I don't care about black actors being slighted for their hard work, it just seems like our time could be better served worrying about the plight of African Americans outside of Hollywood. I could be wrong, but this fight seems like a small battle in the war for equality. I'm more concerned that too many graduates in the class of 2016 will be forced to work jobs instead of find careers. There are too many places in our country where education, accomplishment, or work ethic can't pierce the unconscious and conscious discriminatory practices used in human resource offices. I live in a town that's never had a black person work at a bank. Banks have been here for over two hundred and fifty years and not one bank has ever found a black person who could count. Why should I care more about a fight happening at the top of the socioeconomic scale when there are several winnable battles to be fought in our own communities?

    I understand the desire to have black excellence recognized and rewarded, but all of us (independent of the physical, biological, or psychological traits that classify us as "other") should be more vigilant in accepting ourselves. Waiting for acceptance from society, is a trap; a trap that causes some to do or say anything.

    For me, the most interesting part of this story was the Stacy Dash angle. I'm fascinated when members of the black bourgeois make comments counterintuitive to the black community as a whole. Usually, they do so with the understanding that the privileged bubble they live in is delicate. Their bubble only protects them as long as they have the approval of the people who put them in it. Once this became a big story the conservative media, trotted out their stable of black faces to refute the claims of racism. These folks are willing to spew any rhetoric that distinguishes them from the communities they're identified with. They exist in the space between rejecting their ancestral background and wanting full acceptance from greater society. No matter how fast they run from their roots there are no open arms waiting to embrace them. They live on borrowed time, but most of them haven't figured that out yet. They don't understand how fast America can fall out of love with them: see O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Tiger Woods, and Bill Cosby.

    In 1986 Out of Africa won seven Oscars including Best Picture. That same year The Color Purple was nominated in eleven categories and didn't win any. Thirty years later Alice Walker's book is required reading in a number of courses throughout academia, and the play is in its twelfth year on Broadway. History always has the last word. If Will Smith winning an Oscar could further contribute to the clothing and feeding of kids living in poverty then I would be more upset. Yes, this passes the preliminary smell test for racial suspicion, but it's a footnote. I'm not pressed about the Oscars and most of you shouldn't be either. in 30 years we'll know which movies and actors defined this moment in history.


    No matter how fast they run from their roots there are no open arms waiting to embrace them. They live on borrowed time, but most of them haven't figured that out yet. They don't understand how fast America can fall out of love with them: see O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Tiger Woods, and Bill Cosby.

    Do you honestly believe that America fell "out of love with them" because of the reasons you cite? Take another look at the list.

    I generally agree with you about the academy dust-up, but I do take exception with one additional point:

    Waiting for acceptance from society, is a trap; a trap that causes some to do or say anything.

    You write that as though it's a morally bad thing, something only those too weak or unable to resist societal pressure turn toward. But that denies the fact that everyone needs to be accepted by society, in some way, to be a part of it. That's exactly why it's far more important to change society than any individual within it.

    I agree with you that there were underlying causes that made America "fall out of love" with the examples I listed. O.J. is the only one who has been convicted of a serious crime- although not the one he's hated for. Tiger Woods is best example. When America found out he was living like Charlie Sheen in his private life his popularity suffered dramatically. 

    The greater point about acceptance is that when minorities distance themselves from their people they don't, typically, gain a new tribe they lose the one they had. Yes, being accepted is a natural and rational desire, but acceptance didn't get black people voting rights. It was subversive actions that did that. I know a young woman who was to the left of Cuba politically; Now, she does interviews on conservative news and radio whenever there's the need to challenge a racial narrative. She makes a very solid living standing up for the police in cases of police brutality, corporations in instances of economic injustice, and the status quo in general. She's never used in interviews to affirm the dignity of minorities. I don't fault her for paying her bills, but I wouldn't do it that way. She became more useful as a political analyst once she started bashing poor black people. So when I heard about the Stacy Dash comments I wasn't surprised. The only way she gets on television these days is by making critiques of black life from a conservative perspective. That's the kind of acceptance I'm against. 

    Thanks Danny.  I support a well-funded National Film Agency.  It would produce films made by, starring, and about individuals who are members of demographic groups whom Hollywood is not currently serving adequately.

    I completely agree that this is not the most important fight right now, or the 68th-most important fight.

    To play Spike's Advocate for a moment, people respond to the conditions of their professions, workplaces, and communities. So African-Americans in Hollywood are going to respond to bias in Hollywood. They're just playing their part.

    I do wish Jada Pinkett Smith were not involved, since she has a clear conflict of interest: her husband made a bid for a nomination this year and is widely considered not to have fully delivered the goods. So Will Smith and Concussion actually help the "no performances good enough" defense, when a smarter move would be to focus on a few excellent performances (Samuel L. Jackson's, Michael B. Jordan's) and make a case that those performances were too good to be ignored.

    I think the best argument the boycotters have is that white artists ARE being given recognition for work they do with black collaborators, who are not given credit. So Michael B. Jordan doesn't get nominated for playing Donnie Creed and Sylvester Stallone gets nominated for playing Rocky Balboa again. That's not a smoking gun; it's unfortunate but arguably defensible. But then, in the same year, to skip Straight Outta Compton except for the white screen-writers. That seems like the Academy isn't even trying to hide the bias.

    Bob Somerby notes that some of the NY Times Staff criticizing the most had their own Year's best column a few weeks earlier and left out these films. Maybe they just weren't that good. (disclaimer - I didn't see any 2015 movies). But probably more important battles to fight.

    Definitely agree with you, as much as I want to listen to what Jada Pinkett Smith is saying, knowing that her husband was on the line for an award nomination does make this an uneasy argument from her.

    I haven't watch the Oscars in years, so I can't really boycott. I agree with Dr. Cleveland, workers complain about the bias they see in the workplace. A multi-millionaire on Wall Street is still able to complain about the obstacles he/ she faces. Blacks can complain about a lack of access to coaching jobs. The Hollywood story is just another part of life in America. Stacey Dash criticizes BET for being a segregated network. Dash incorrectly states that whites cannot win BET awards. Sam Smith won the BET award for Best New Artist in 2015. White artists have received nominations at both the BET awards and the NAACP Image Awards. Mandy Kaling of the "Mindy Project " and Felix Valdez of "General Hospital" have also received BET nominations. Sam Smith won an NAACP Image award in 2015. Steven Spielberg won a Vanguard award at an NAACP Image award ceremony. Stacey Dash was in error.


    One criticism leveled at not only the BET network, but at black organizations like the National Medical Association, the National Bar Association, etc. Is why these "segregationist" organization are "allowed" to exist. The reality is that black national organizations, fraternities, and sororities came into existence because they were not allowed into majority white institutions. Once white organizations declare themselves racially inclusive, it appears that Conservatives demand that black organizations shut down. Blacks who have worked for an organization and risen through the ranks are supposed to happily go from board membership or administrative positions to rank and file membership in previously all white organizations. The request that black organizations reeks of white supremacy.



    We either keep supporting affirmative action or watch it slide back, like with affirmative action. There's no stable stasis point.

    Then there's something nice about supporting and calling out variety -Jewish, black, women,  gay, punk, a variety of identities. White male might be there too, but we have trouble separating pride in self from fandom of injustices past & present. It's kind of a shame, but when every history book keys on Isaac newton, Chris Columbus, George Washington, doesn't much matter. As Liberaci said, "I cried myself all the way to the bank". Still, as CK notes, it's great to be white. I'm happy if BET and others can proclaim the same thing for being black - doesn't hurt me for more people to be happy and proud.

    Even that imagined loss of Opportunity is suspect. I don't imagine there's ever  a black American getting a slot in uni or a good job that doesn't imply 2 or 3 white folks getting same now or in 2 years. Look at substance abuse - now that it's hitting white communities, we're gonna be all over this shit. Thanks, black pals - after 3 generations of destroyed black communities, white people have woken up and we're going to own this issue.

    I have not watched the Oscars in 15 or 20 years.

    I catch the outcomes via Wiki when I have some questions about some particular film.

    Hell, I usually do not hit the 'winners' until two years or more have passed; that is when cable carries the film.

    13 Warriors is one of my favorite films. Actually the tome based upon this film was Crichton's 'Eaters of the Dead'.

    Most critics hated this film; I loved it.

    Now we call it a 'film noir'.

    Denzel and Sam Jackson and Morgan Freeman (the best name ever!)  and the voice of Darth Vader and a host of other great actors shall never be removed from my memories. Hell, anyone of these three fellows will appear in any megafilm!

    This Oscar mess has nothing to do with me or most movie viewers!


    As a symptom of the problem, Joseph Fiennes is scheduled to portray Michael Jackson in a British film.


    I don't know who to blame more, the casting directors for making such an appalling decision or to the actor for auditioning for that role in the first place.

    Might I remind that Will Smith plays a Nigerian immigrant, Brando plays an Italian mobster plus a Polish immigrant as does Meryl Streep, David Bowie plays a Serbian inventor and an alien, Keira Knightley plays a Russian, Bjork plays a Czech, Vivien Leigh played a southern (Irish-stock) belle, Dorothy Stratton & Jane Fonda played space strumpets,Nicholson played the Devil, Peter Sellers played a mad German paraplegic,  Audrey Hepburn played a blind woman, Antonio Banderas played a gay man with AIDS, John Belushi played a Mexican, Yul Brynner played a Thai Emperor, 16-year-old Judy Garland played a 12-year-old Dorothy and 23-year-old Stockard Channing played a high school student. Perhaps best of all is half-Mexican/half-Irish Anthony Quinn, who played an Italian (La Strada), a Frenchman (Lust for Life), a Greek (Zorba), a bedouin Arab (Lawrence of Arabia), an Eskimo (The Savage Innocents), a Ukrainian Priest (Shoes of the Fisherman), and a Jewish High Priest Caiaphas (Jesus of Nazareth).

    Has Will Smith portrayed Elvis?

    Eddie Murphy did Dr. Doolittle - does that count?

    Actually, Dr. Doolittle is interesting from the standpoint it underwent revisions to remove racist text.


    Danny Cardwell and I will be discussing this column and more broadly ways to effectuate positive change tomorrow morning on my show at 9:30am east coast  www.halginsberg.com.

    Latest Comments