In light of the recent proposed boycotting of The Oscars, should the standards be changed to ensure more diversity or should nominees be judged on their work alone? Does the boycotting have merit or is it hypocritical seeing as the BET awards are mainly African American?

Myrtle Beach, SC, Orlando, FL January 28, 2016

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-In light of the recent boycotting of The Oscars, the standards have indeed been quickly overhauled to ensure diversity. The Academy recently announced that a number of its current rules would be changed to promote diversity in its membership. Any new rulings would not go into effect until after the 2016 Oscars, and from there it would be retroactive for all current members.

The sudden change affects the rule concerning lifetime voting privileges for members. Membership would revert from a lifetime term to a 10-year term. Once the 10-year term expired, a renewal of another 10 years would be issued. Reissuance would be based on whether the member had been active in motion pictures during the 10-year time frame. If the member remains eligible for three successive terms, he or she would qualify for lifetime voting privileges. Lifetime voting rights would only be granted to Academy Award nominees, winners, and those members who have earned the three 10-year terms.

Not only does the new ruling involve term limitations, but the Academy will seriously mount a worldwide campaign to find and recruit eligible new members who represent greater diversity. In addition, there will be three new seats added to the AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) Board of Governors, whose members will be nominated by the president (currently African American, Cheryl Boone Isaacs) and approved by the board, as opposed to being elected by the members of any specific branch of the Academy. AMPAS has also pledged to add minority members to its executive and board committees and to double their ranks with women and other diverse members by 2020.

Long-standing Academy members feel that any nominations and awards should be based on work and excellence alone. Many members have suggested that they are being pushed aside because of their age, race, and irrelevancy to the industry. Actor Tab Hunter commented on the recent Academy rulings and said, “Obviously, it’s a thinly-veiled ploy to kick out older white contributors-the backbone of the industry-to make way for younger, politically-correct voters. The Academy should not cave into media hype and change the rules without talking to or getting votes from all members first.”

As far as the boycotts having had merit, they did, by creating a purposeful fervor and pressure for changes in the rules and Governing Board in a short period of time. It all does seem hypocritical, particularly with the inclusive awards programs and other organizations and groups that are mainly African American, such as the BET Awards (Black Entertainment Television), BET Hip Hop Awards, Soul Train Awards, the NAACP’s Image Awards, Miss Black America, the Black Baseball Players Association, the National Black Lawyers Association, the Black Congressional Caucus, and other groups in and outside of the entertainment world.

If current and future black American Academy members are intent upon increasing their ranks, and changing the face of who receives awards, they must first realize that there are many exceptionally skilled people who have been elected to the Academy and have never received Oscar nominations, including whites, blacks, and others. They must also realize that just filling Academy seats doesn’t guarantee Oscar awards.

In order for diversity to work without the coercion factor, the efforts of black Academy members need to be focused on the direct approach, which entails meeting with studio heads, script writers, casting directors and administrators and pleading their case for final production. These are the people who make the decisions in Hollywood as to who is cast in roles, what scripts are written, what is produced, and what sells. If diversity story projects are to be recognized, then meeting and dealing with those making the final decisions on film projects must be part of the negotiation process.

The stories and roles for diversified members are there; they just need to plead their case for the projects they represent without the expectation that being of a certain skin color will be the deciding point. Using Affirmative Action or tokenism as a pressure point is no guarantee of a role, position or award in Hollywood, but excellence in storytelling, acting and profit making are.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Awards shows are endemic illustrations of the racism, or at least racial bias, that our society has practiced overtly or tacitly since the founding of this country. Wealthy, white elites who have traditionally controlled the movie, theater, publishing, music, and television industries created and developed the vast majority of awards shows.

These wealthy, white elites also comprise the vast majority of nominating individuals and committees. They are likely affected by this endemic racial bias when nominating artists or works of art for awards. To expect them all to be cognizant of that unconscious bias and make allowances to ensure diversity in their nominating process is absurd. No one can willfully rise above his or her subconscious biases. We may rationalize our choices with numerous reasons that may or may not be valid, but the bottom line is minority-produced art and entertainment must be exceptionally superior to be included in an awards-nominating discussion.

While I don’t favor quotas or changing standards to force the recognition of diversity, I do see the validity of minorities boycotting awards shows to drive home the point that the awards aren’t a true reflection of America’s societal makeup.

Perhaps if minority artists shun mainstream awards and only participate in minority-oriented awards shows such as the BET awards, a time will come when the reputation of a minority award surpasses that of the mainstream awards. If that ever happens, two possible positive outcomes might arise: One, mainstream and minority awards will merge into one award, thereby rendering moot the point about lack of diversity. Two, the white award will lose so much prestige in the entertainment world that the white artists themselves will apply pressure with their own boycott or other peaceful means of achieving the necessary change to restore the prestige of the white awards.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-The Oscars is the avenue through which various individuals are awarded the “Academy Award of Merit”, for their outstanding performance and contributions in various areas of entertainment. This award was first presented back in 1929. However, since The Oscars inception to present, there has been issues concerning the event’s diversity or lack thereof. Should the Oscar’s standards be changed to ensure more diversity or should those who feel slighted boycott the event?

Based on statements made, even from Cheryl Boone Isaacs, they’ve been working hard to address the issue of lack of diversity at the Oscars. This was after a backlash unveiled after the Academy showed a list of nominees for the 2016 Oscar, all white! In fact, even Spike Lee, after receiving an honorary Oscar last year, decided that he and his wife would boycott the event for this year. I’m not insinuating that the Oscar should be avoided, but they could improve the standards to ensure diversity.

On the other hand, boycotting these events when other races are not nominated is indeed somewhat hypocritical. The BET features mostly African Americans but no one complains. Truly, instead of boycotting, other measures can be taken to ensure everyone has a fair share to accomplish something. The solution is not refraining from these events but actually finding common grounds. The Oscar is what it is.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-The “White Oscars” have drawn a lot of fire from the Hollywood community, but it’s that community which is to blame for the issue. In its own way, the filmmaking community is just as hidebound and clique-ridden as Congress, with studio heads dictating what films get made, get advertised and get released. While independent films continue to do well and more are produced every year, the big, blockbuster success is still largely tied to major studios.

That said, I am most emphatically not in favor of any kind of quota system for the Oscars. The moment we start requiring that a certain number of films made by minorities or a certain number of minority actors are nominated every year, we go down the rabbit hole. That’s trying to fix a car with a bad engine by changing a tire.

I don’t think the boycott of the ceremony has any merit at all. The people at the ceremony are by and large not the ones responsible for the system, and to refuse to be present to honor the efforts of one’s fellow artists is petulant and short-sighted.

What has to happen, and this will not be a quick fix, is to start all the way back at the level of film schools and other industry pipelines recruiting and training minority actors and filmmakers. Several prominent black actors have stated that while they don’t like the all-white Oscars, they also know that there was a dearth of minority roles that were Oscar-worthy this year.

We can’t fix the problem by mandating more nominations go to minorities. We can fix it by making it possible for minorities to produce Oscar-caliber content. What happens if those efforts are made and the quantity increases, but the quality doesn’t? That remains to be seen, but I will never support any type of quota system.

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