Beware of the Inclusion Erosion Temptation – The Hollywood Reporter

I have never heard or used the word “editing” more than in the days since the last Oscars. Having been in the room where it happened, I have been flooded with questions from journalists, friends, family and people I have not heard from in a long time. My answer remained the same as I have heard from others. “I am still working on what just happened.”

My experiences since attending the Oscars in recent years have been steeped in unexpected drama and a constant crossroads of public opinion, politics and race. In 2015, I had a seat in the front row at the beginning of #OscarsSoWhite starring in the movie that helped start it all, Selma. Two years later I became part of a viral meme after my reaction was recorded on camera as La La Land mistakenly referred to as the winner of the best film instead of the actual winner, Moonlight.

So you could argue that when I received my invitation to this year’s Oscars, I expected nothing less than to witness another dramatic event in which public opinion, politics and race clash, but like most of us, nothing will. he could have prepared me for what was to come. As a Black in public, you are constantly aware of the fact that your very existence is political. You are firmly in a situation to either use as an example to perpetuate or break a stereotype. These stereotypes are associated with crime, kindness, education, sexuality, poverty, social responsibility and more. It’s a burden I have to accept even though it is exhausting in nature.

The moment I slowly realized the nature of what had just happened on the stage of the Dolby Theater, I experienced the same growing anxiety that all blacks feel when the person flashing on the news after a crime is reported is black. a. You find yourself thinking “What does this mean for us?” “What does this mean for me?” Shortly after the infamous Oscar ceremony, I entered a post-Oscar party and immediately faced what I feared. An old white gentleman approached me with pleasure in his behavior and said “They should have dragged him right from there”. You may agree with this feeling, but it’s not what he said, it’s it way he said it. I know this pleasure. I know this behavior, and it’s ugly to the core of all its coded messages.

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#OscarsSoWhite has made huge profits from the Academy and the entertainment industry. The then President of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, despite the huge internal reactions and pressures, led the class, forcing the Academy to improve its shameful unequal racial and gender demographics. This change clearly led to the celebration of films and artisans, which were traditionally ignored in the intervening years. This example has had the very welcome effect of penetrating our industry. It would be naive to assume that the incident between Will Smith and Chris Rock will not be pushed, by some industry professionals, through the lens of the race. Some of them will be the same people who resisted the integration measures that Cheryl Boone Isaacs and her supporters managed to get into the Academy and which led to a more diverse Academy.

This intersection of personal opinion, politics and race is the same reason why black artists for decades had to face the “big lie” of Hollywood that black films and artists do not travel. Will Smith himself had a big hand in demystifying this lie. It is also the reason we are traditionally best known for playing submissive and criminalized roles rather than for authorized and inspired ones. It’s the reason we still do not have any black executives who have the autonomy in the green light whatever happens.

In the aftermath of the assassination of George Floyd, the entertainment industry has made many commitments to increase the diversity of our business. Some deliberately. Some rituals. My fear is that this unfortunate incident, which has processed us all, will have a negative impact on the ongoing push for membership. There are those who, in an effort to ensure that this kind of thing never happens again, will work through an unconscious – or conscious – prejudice. A bias that still pervades so much of Hollywood decision-making. It would be tragic if an attempt to prevent such an incident from happening again became an excuse for ideas of integration and diversity to decline. This would confirm from the outset the dishonesty of some of these commitments. This incident should not be a springboard for dissent in Hollywood circles about race, dignity and belonging.

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The unjust nature of what happened to Chris Rock and those whose achievements were completely overshadowed that night can not be overstated. Will himself rightly said that his actions were “shocking, painful and unforgivable.” But in all our elaboration of what happened, let us not forget that there is a mood exemplified by the man who approached me at that after party. His weak gossip and half-smile on his face are indicative of what should not be allowed to drag on in the aftermath of this incident. We need to be vigilant against making decisions that would adversely affect profits like The Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs and all those who strive for a more diversified, inclusive and fair industry and entertainment world.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Hollywood, it is that it hosts some very good people with good intentions and a number of broken people with bad intentions. I call on good people with good intentions to stay focused on building the big profits we have recently achieved. They should not be eroded by those with bad intentions who would gladly try to arm this incident to derail these profits and divide us.

David Oyelowo, the author of this guest column, is an Emmy, BAFTA, Critics Choice, Golden Globe and SAG Award-nominated actor, director and producer.

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