#OscarsSoWhite that Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee will not be attending them, as the two announced via social media on Monday.
Smith initially contemplated skipping the 88th annualAcademy Awards after her husband, Will, failed to net a best actor nomination for his turn as Dr. Bennet Omalu in Concussion. The actress confirmed her intent to boycott in a video posted to Facebook.
“Maybe it is time we pull back our resources and we put them back into our communities, into our programs, and we make programs for ourselves that acknowledge us in ways that we see fit, that are just as good as the so-called mainstream,” she suggested.
Smith added that begging for acknowledgment is an undignified act and that communities of color should not stoop to that level.
“We are a dignified people and we are powerful — let’s not forget it,” she said. “So let’s let the Academy do them with all grace and love and let’s do us differently.”
For his part, Lee took to Instagram to announce that he and his wife would not attend the show. Though he expressed his gratitude for the honorary Oscar he received last November, Lee took the Academy to task for the lack of diversity among this year’s nominees.
“#OscarsSoWhite… Again,” his post opened, in a direct reference to the again-trending hashtag, which was launched last year by Twitter user @ReignOfApril after actors of color were shut out of acting nominations.
“We cannot support it and (I) mean no disrespect to my friends, host Chris Rock and producer Reggie Hudlin, president (Cheryl Boone) Isaacs and the Academy,” Lee continued. “But, how is it possible for the second consecutive year all 20 contenders under the acting category are white? And let’s not even get into the other branches. Forty white actors in two years and no flava at all. We can’t act?! WTF!!”
Lee also noted that the timing of his post — which coincided with the birthday and national remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — was intentional.
“Dr. King said, ‘There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it’s right,'” Lee wrote. “For too many years, when the Oscar nominations are revealed, my office phone rings off the hook with the media asking me my opinion about the lack of African-Americans and this year was no different. For once (maybe), I would like the media to ask all the white nominees and studio heads how they feel about another all-white ballot. If someone has addressed this and I missed it then I stand mistaken.”
Lee went on to note that the “real” battle is not with the Academy Awards specifically, but with the dearth of people of color in executive positions. He argued the lack of diversity in those spaces is the reason why diverse films are not greenlit and why actors of color continue to net fewer opportunities and fewer accolades.
“People, the truth is we ain’t in those rooms, and until minorities are, the Oscar nominees will remain lilly white,” he wrote.
Lee and Smith join a chorus of celebrities condemning awards shows for their seeming failure to recognize actors of color, and Lee’s comments in particular get at the heart of an institutional issue he first addressed at the Governors Awards in November.
“It’s easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than to be the head of a studio,” he said. “Honest. Or the head of a network.”
“I’m getting real here,” he continued. “Everybody here probably voted for Obama. But when I go to offices, I see no black folks, except for the brother man who is the security guard who checks my name as I go into the studio.”
But one celebrity actor was celebrating a victory on Monday. Ice Cube, who stars in the action comedy Ride Along 2, noted that his movie with co-star Kevin Hart won the box office this weekend. It knocked Star Wars: The Force Awakens out of the No. 1 spot. He tweeted: “Who cares about SNUBS when you getting STUBS? #RideAlong2 is the no.1 movie in America!”