Oscars whitewash due to lack of roles for minorities

Many 2016 Oscar viewers would probably agree that host Chris Rock was rightfully critical of the Academy’s exclusion of black Americans from this year’s nominations.

However, some of that anger might be too particular and misplaced.

Even though casting decisions are made by casting directors and production companies related to the movie in question mostly, moviegoer preferences are taken into account. It is understandable that companies like 20th Century Fox do not open up leading roles to African Americans because they are tempted to think that diversity is not going to bring in box office big bucks.

If having white actors play characters that were originally written as another ethnicity has made money in the past, then there is no incentive to suddenly include other races in big roles — unless we expect them to.

The problem is not only a lack of opportunity for African Americans, but a lack of opportunity for many other minorities and women as well. For instance, studies of the 100 top-grossing films in 2014 have shown that although women make up roughly half of the U.S. population, they are only responsible for less than a third of all speaking characters on screen. Additionally, when they are on screen, they are are mostly represented as highly sexualized, and just another pretty face with no depth whatsoever to their characters.

But this plea to create more diverse films isn’t unachievable. According to The Economist, “in our analysis of film casts and awards shows, the number of black actors winning Oscars in this century has been pretty much in line with the size of America’s overall black population.”

That said, I’m not trying to justify the Academy’s actions by any means. The film industry is always evolving. And while racial diversity is a necessary change, it doesn’t have to take longer than everyone would like.

Both the Academy and moviegoers should realize that creating more diverse movie casts is not just a trend, but a necessity. After this year’s Oscars, the industry should not only be focused on creating more roles for black American actors, but also Mexican-American, Puerto Rican-American, Indian-American, Hawaiian, Asian-American and many other people of color who are turned down everyday because they are simply “not what the studio is looking for.”