Oscars' Fixation on Black Trauma Is an Issue of Diversity

In the history of the Oscars, the majority of nominations for Black writers and filmmakers have gone to movies about racism.

Video Transcript

- A-one, a-two, a-you know what to do.

- Reporters keep asking me, Billie, why you do the things you do?

- This year's Academy Awards features a record-breaking number of nominees for actors of color. But diversity in entertainment isn't just about the actors we see on screen, it's also about the stories they get to tell.

AMMANUEL ZEGEYE: Yeah, I think there's still some exciting developments from the Oscars, but I think still a long way to go across the board.

- "Both on screen and off, Black talent is pigeonholed and funneled to race-related content," according to a study from the Blacklight Collective and McKinsey & Company Consulting Group. Researchers say this can reinforce stereotypes about Black communities, as well as serve as another barrier for artists of color.

AMMANUEL ZEGEYE: What you see is a lot of Black screen-- or Black, off-screen talent-- being pushed into these race-related films. People either want poverty or Wakanda, and nothing in between.

- In the history of the Academy Awards, the majority of nominations for Black writers, directors, and producers have gone to films about racism in America. And more than half of those films feature storylines about the criminal justice system.

MONIQUE JONES: I think just the idea of Black trauma, in general, is a big deal with how Black people are seen by the Academy, when there's so much more to being a Black person in America than just a traumatic side.

- Critics of color have been sounding off on this issue for the past year, especially in the aftermath of the protests for racial justice. When streaming platforms published curated collections of Black-led titles, many films highlighted race-related trauma throughout American history. And while critics saw those stories as important, contextualizing present-day issues of racism, the films also amplified real-life anxieties and fears.

MONIQUE JONES: To get the constant barrage of news of Black men, and Black women, and Black children getting killed. And then you go to the movie theater, and then you see more Black men, and Black women, and Black kids getting killed and tortured. It's just like a never-ending cycle.

- Some artists and advocates are working to change this. Actress and producer Marsai Martin has a "No Black Pain" rule at her production studio. And Kristin Marston, the Culture and Entertainment Advocacy Director of Color of Change, told Newsy that the organization is "calling on the industry to greenlight Black-led projects that depict a more expansive version of the Black experience."

MONIQUE JONES: The more we start realizing that there is a way to talk about Blackness without always going through pain, the more that people will start trying to find these other avenues that showcase Blackness in an uplifting, powerful way.

- Casey Mendoza, Newsy Chicago.