Academy President Promises Change in Response to #OscarsSoWhite

Director Spike Lee is boycotting the ceremony.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Davidlohr Bueso

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, released a brief statement yesterday addressing widespread criticism of the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscar nomination list.

“I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion,” wrote Isaacs, who is the first black person and third woman to serve as president of the Academy. “In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.”

The statement was released on the same day as director Spike Lee’s announcement of his boycott of the 88th Academy Awards. His announcement, which was symbolically published on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, echoes the scorn and frustration felt by those criticizing the Oscars for excluding people of color in its biggest categories. However, his statement looks beyond the Academy and recognizes the larger, systemic discrimination that occurs at the highest levels of the industry.

“As I See It, The Academy Awards Is Not Where The ‘Real’ Battle Is. It's In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To ‘Turnaround’ Or Scrap Heap. This Is What's Important,” he wrote on Facebook. He was joined by actress Jada Pinkett Smith in his boycott.

#OscarsSoWhite... Again.I Would Like To Thank President Cheryl Boone Isaacs And The Board Of Governors Of The Academy...

Posted by Spike Lee on Monday, January 18, 2016\n

Interestingly, it’s Lee, not Isaacs, who offers a concrete example of what the Academy can do to improve. He references the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires football teams to interview people of color for open coaching positions before making a hire. This has increased the number of black coaches in the NFL since its establishment in 2003.

What Isaacs’ statement does illustrate, though, is the tendency of large organizations (and corporations) to address systemic problems only retroactively, after controversy and negative publicity. Had the Academy understood its failure to represent diverse communities in its nominationswhich it should have, following last year’s similar criticismthey could have avoided a repeat of its mistakes. But that was going to be unlikely either way, considering how predominantly white, male, and old Academy voters are.

While it’s too late to amend the 2016 nominations, Isaacs’ statement at least provides some hope for the future of the awards ceremony. Hollywood and the film industry as a whole will be much more difficult to change, but there is potential for a trickle-down effect: Once the Academy starts to recognize more films reflecting diverse communities and experiences, more of such films will be green-lit and produced. Let’s hope that the Academy delivers on its effort to become more inclusive.

Read Isaacs’ full statement below or on Twitter:

I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees. While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.

As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly.

This isn’t unprecedented for the Academy. In the ’60s and ’70s it was about recruiting younger members to stay vital and relevant. In 2016, the mandate is inclusion in all of its facets: gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We recognize the very real concerns of our community, and I so appreciate all of you who have reached out to me in our effort to move forward together.


For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less

When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via ICE / Flickr

The Connors family, two coupes from the United Kingdom, one with a three-month old baby and the other with twin two-year-olds, were on vacation in Canada when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) turned their holiday into a 12-plus day-long nightmare.

On October 3, the family was driving near the U.S.-Canada border in British Columbia when an animal veered into the road, forcing them to make an unexpected detour.

The family accidentally crossed into the United States where they were detained by ICE officials in what would become "the scariest experience of our lives," according to a complaint filed with the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.

Keep Reading Show less