The Academy Award nominations were announced this morning, and one thing you might have noticed about this year’s nominees: All 20 in the acting categories are white. The last time this happened was in 2011, and before that, in 1998.
The news led to immediate backlash on social media channels like Twitter, with people using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, which immediately began trending.
Some contenders for a nod that people are angry were overlooked? The lead actor in “Selma”, David Oyelowo, a biopic about Martin Luther King, Jr. was considered a shoo in and left off the list. “Selma” Director Ava DuVernay also didn’t get a nod—if she had, she’d have been the first black woman to ever be nominated in the Best Director category.
Last year’s awards, to be sure, were much more diverse with Chiwetel Ejiofor receiving a nomination for Best Actor for “12 Years a Slave”, Barkhad Abdi scoring a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for “Captain Phillips” and Lupita Nyong’o winning Best Supporting Actress for “12 Years a Slave.”
Still, one need only to look at the overall list of past winners to see a pattern, and a lack of diversity among Oscar nominees and winners. Publisher Lee & Low recently analyzed the first 85 years of the Oscars, spotlighting that there’s only been one minority winner in the Best Actress category—Halle Berry—one woman to win in the Best Director category (that would be Kathryn Bigelow) and six minority actors to win for Best Actor (and one includes Ben Kingsley who is of Indian descent).
For those wondering why this continues to be an issue when the Academy is meant to award talent above all else? The Los Angeles Times published a list of members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in 2013 highlighting that 93 percent of those casting votes were white and about three-quarters are male.
There’s been movement in recent years to try to rectify that, however. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is a black female, has made it one of her missions to add new voting members to the pool, but based on the year’s nominees, there’s still a lot of work to be done.