Diversity Wins At The 2016 SAG Awards & It's More Important Than Ever This Year

When the Oscar nominations were announced, many people were disappointed and angry with the lack of diversity among the nominees that the Academy voted for. It spawned the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and a lot of important conversation about why people of color are consistently snubbed the committee. Some actors, including Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, plan to boycott the Oscars altogether in order to make the statement that it's unacceptable for people of color to consistently be overlooked for their accomplishments. Although the Screen Actors Guild Awards winners on Jan. 30 certainly can't fix the problematic Oscar nominations, it does signal that there's hope — because there was excellent diversity among the talented 2016 SAG Awards winners.

Since these awards shows can feel like a whirlwind, let's recap the big wins for people of color:

  • Viola Davis — Outstanding Female Actor in a Drama Series for How to Get Away With Murder
  • Idris Elba — Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries for Luther and Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture for Beasts of No Nation
  • Idris Elba — Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture for Beasts of No Nation
  • Uzo Aduba — Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series for Orange is the New Black (Aduba also won an ensemble nod along with her Orange is the New Black castmates)
  • Queen Latifah — Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in Television Movie or Miniseries for Bessie

Looking at these awards, one major thing stands out to me — aside from Elba's win for Beasts of No Nation, all these awards were for TV shows or miniseries. It seems that, in recent years, TV has done far more to break ground with diversity than film. When Viola Davis won Best Actress at the Emmys in September, her memorable speech included this powerful quote: "[L]et me tell you something. The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity." She eloquently pointed out that people of color can't win awards if they don't have the opportunity to work on amazing material.

Of course, this doesn't explain why the incredible film Selma was snubbed in the directing and acting categories at the 2015 Oscars or why Straight Outta Compton was snubbed this year. But, Davis' words are an important reminder that the industry needs to continue to strive to create amazing content that will give actors of color opportunities to showcase their talent. And, we should give major props to people like Shonda Rhimes and Jenji Kohan who have worked so hard to ensure these opportunities exist on the small screen.

I hope the members of the Oscars Academy paid close attention to the winners at the 2016 Screen Actors Guild Awards — because this is what a group of winners should look like. The committee nominated and voted based purely on merit, and the result was a refreshingly diverse list of winners. It's unfortunate that we still need to have this conversation in the year 2016, but we need to continue to push for diversity at awards shows until every ceremony's results mirror the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Huge congratulations to all of this evening's amazing winners.

Image: Giphy (2)