For the second year in a row, all of the Oscar nominees in the acting categories are white. That means there's not a single person of color nominated for a Best Actor or Best Supporting Actress trophy. In response, stars are contributing to the #OscarsSoWhite conversation and expressing their disappointment over the lack of diversity. Actors ranging from Jada Pinkett Smith to George Clooney have spoken out and their comments aren't unfounded. On Tuesday, Lupita Nyong'o shared her feelings about the Oscars and joined the ever-growing list of celebrities to do so. In an Instagram post, Nyong'o wrote,
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.
In addition, the Star Wars: The Force Awakens star included a quote by James Baldwin: "Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced." She also used the hashtag #manystoriesmanyvoices. Nyong'o raises many important points. It's the stories of all people that are worth telling, and whether the prejudice is "unconscious" or not, that doesn't mean people should deny its existence.
Bravo to Nyong'o for standing in solidarity with her peers. Her statement is incredibly eloquent, which isn't all that surprising for those who remember her 2014 acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress. As she said in her speech,
When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.
That year, Nyong'o joined a handful of African-American women who have won the same award. Literally, a handful, since only five black women previously won the title of Best Supporting Actress: Hattie McDaniel, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Hudson, Mo'Nique, and Octavia Spencer. In case that statistic isn't discouraging enough, Halle Berry remains the only black woman to win Best Actress in all of Oscars history. Considering no women of color are nominated in 2016, that stat will be true at least for one more year.
In 1940, Hattie McDaniel's historic win for Gone With The Wind made her the first African-American actor to win an Oscar. When presenting McDaniel's award, Fay Bainter said,
To me it seems more than just a plaque of gold. It opens the doors of this room, moves back the walls, and enables us to embrace the whole of America — an America that we love, an America that almost alone in the world today, recognizes and pays tribute to those who give her their best, regardless of creed, race, or color.
That was more than 75 years ago, but those words remain just as relevant today. The Academy needs to "embrace the whole of America," something that the 2016 nominations don't quite do. But by stars like Nyong'o speaking up, hopefully change will happen and future nominations will be much more inclusive.