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Oscar Uproar Overblown Over Lack of Racial Diversity Among Nominees

Cheryl Boone Issaacs,  first African-American president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences spoke out Friday night in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press about the Oscar nominations and the widespread criticism that followed. She has nothing to apologize for. (Photo: Getty)

Cheryl Boone Issaacs, first African-American president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences spoke out Friday night in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press about the Oscar nominations and the widespread criticism that followed. She has nothing to apologize for. (Photo: Getty)

This year’s Oscar nominations have touched off a firestorm of criticism over the lack of racial diversity. To the contrary, the fact that no minorities were tapped is actually an affirmation of the selection process.

Critics say the failure to nominate “Selma” director Ava DuVernay, or the movie’s star, David Oyelowo, reflected a racial bias.

This year’s list is an expression of more than 6,000 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They annually select the nominees and winners.

Criticizing their choices has become an annual blood sport, and social media has only increased the bloodletting. This year though, a pack mentality has seized on the race card.

Scads and scads of Internet media outlets have created a lemming-like quality to news coverage. When it comes to hot-button issues like racism, especially involving an institution like the Academy, one spark can ignite a forest fire of copycat criticism.

So, yes, there are no minority actors among this year’s nominees, but it’s also grossly unfair to judge the Academy based on one year’s selection.

If any media outlet bothered to do the most cursory research, minority representation among nominees–and winners–is broadly representative of Hollywood and the nation.

African-Americans have been nominated for best actor awards in five of the last 10 years. Forest Whitaker was the last to win best actor in 2006 for his portrayal of Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland.”

But Morgan Freeman was nominated in 2009 for “Invictus;” Denzel Washington was nominated in 2012 for “Flight” and Chiwetel Ejiofor was nominated in 2013 for “12 Years a Slave.”

In the best actress category, Gabourey Sidibe was nominated in 2009 for “Precious;” Viola Davis was nominated for 2012’s “The Help” and Quvenzhané Wallis was nominated in 2013 for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

For best supporting actress, African-Americans have been nominated in six of the last seven years and won in three out of the last four years.

Jennifer Hudson won in 2006 for “Dream Girls,” Mo’Nique won in 2009 for “Precious,” Octavia Spencer won in 2011 for “The Help” and Lupita Nyong’o won in 2013 for “12 Years a Slave.”

Special interest groups like the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition are lobbying for more minority representation.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy’s first African-American Academy president, has vowed to make the nominations more inclusive.

“In the last two years, we’ve made greater strides than we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization through admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members,” Boone Isaacs said.

“And, personally, I would love to see and look forward to see a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories.”

To her credit, Boone-Isaacs refused to bow to pressure and praised all of the nominees, all of whom, she said, deserved recognition.

“What is important not to lose sight of is that ‘Selma,’ which is a fantastic motion picture, was nominated for best picture this year, and the best picture category is voted on by the entire membership of around 7,000 people,” Boone Isaacs said.

Academy Award nominations are supposed to go to the best performances of the year regardless of race, creed or color. There is no racial quota system for nominees, nor should there be.

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