“At the Oscars, people of colour are always welcomed to give out awards, even entertain, but we are rarely recognised for our artistic accomplishments,” Jada Pinkett Smith wrote on her Facebook page last week. “Should people of color refrain from participating all together?”
Will Smith broke his silence on his wife’s call to boycott this year’s Oscars when he sat down with ABC’s Robin Roberts yesterday in an interview for “Good Morning America” – confirming that he will not be attending the 88th Annual Academy Awards next month.
When the 2016 Oscar nominees were announced last week, many people were outraged over the fact that every single acting nominee was white. For the 2nd consecutive year, the 20 acting nominees are all white actors.
The lack of diversity and exclusion of people of colour in those categories sparked off the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to start trending on Twitter. The backlash started gaining momentum after several Hollywood heavyweights spoke about the controversy and suggested a boycott.
Pinkett Smith was one of them.
However, no one was more surprised than her husband. “I was out of the country at the time, and I came home (and said), What happened? She’s deeply passionate, and when she’s moved, she has to go. I heard her words, and I was knocked over. I was happy to be married to that woman,” said Smith.
He added, “There’s a position that we hold in this community, and if we’re not a part of the solution, we’re a part of the problem. It was her call to action for herself, for me and for our family to be a part of the solution.”
Now Smith feels that it’s also his responsibility to speak out against Hollywood’s on-going concern. “For my part, I think that I have to protect and fight for the ideals that make our country and make our Hollywood community great. So when I look at the series of nominations of the Academy, it’s not reflecting that beauty.
“The nominations reflect the Academy. The Academy reflects the industry (Hollywood) and then the industry reflects America. There is a regressive slide towards separatism, towards racial and religious disharmony and that’s not the Hollywood that I want to leave behind,” he told Roberts.
Smith had initially received a Golden Globe nomination for his role in “Concussion” for his portrayal of the real-life Dr. Bennet Omalu but did not receive an Oscar nod.
He admitted that although Pinkett Smith may have been partially motivated by his Oscar snub, he insisted the issue at hand goes beyond his snub.
“For Jada, had I been nominated and no other people of colour were, she would have made the video anyway. We’d still be here having this conversation,” said Smith.
This is so deeply not about me. This is about children that are going to sit down and they’re going to watch this show and they’re not going to see themselves represented.
Joining in on the many voices that spoke out include:
“If you think back 10 years ago, the Academy was doing a better job. Think about how many more African Americans were nominated…. And all of a sudden, you feel like we’re moving in the wrong direction,” – George Clooney
“I am disappointed by the lack of inclusion in this year’s Academy Awards nominations. It has me thinking about unconscious prejudice and what merits prestige in our culture. The Awards should not dictate the terms of art in our modern society, but rather be a diverse reflection of the best of what our art has to offer today. I stand with my peers who are calling for change in expanding the stories that are told and recognition of the people who tell them,” – Lupita Nyong’o
“It isn’t just the Academy Awards. The entire American system is rife with a kind of white privileged racism that goes into our justice system,” – Mark Ruffalo
“How is it possible for the 2nd consecutive year all 20 contenders under the actor category are white? And let’s not even get into the other branches. 40 white actors in 2 years and no flava at all. We can’t act?! WTF!!” – Spike Lee
“Why is this a conversation that we only have once a year? Every year we get all fired up and then the rest of the year nobody says anything…. So I’m not going to boycott, but I’m going to continue to bitch as I have all year round because I’m tired of seeing movies where no one is represented except a bit of the population, not all of it,” – Whoopi Goldberg
In his interview on GMA, Smith blames the Academy’s current membership for being one of the main caused of this issue.
“At this point, the Academy is 94% Caucasian and 77% male. It’s just difficult to get a diverse cultural sampling from that group. It’s a systematic bias that needs to be addressed across the industry, said the 47-year-old “Concussion” star.
Watch the full interview below:
The Academy Awards will be broadcast live exclusively via HBO on 29th February at 9:30am, with a same night primetime encore at 8pm.