Race unrelated to Oscar nominations, purely talent based

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Two weeks ago I read an article in The Tartan’s Forum section discussing the Oscars, which argued that pervasive racism was connected to the list of Oscar nominees, all of whom were white. The Oscar nominations also generated a movement and attention online, with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite spreading across Twitter. Many people believe that the lack of black or other minority actors on the list is a result of racism plaguing society, and I completely disagree.

When I watch a movie, I don’t judge an actor by what color his skin is. It’s disingenuous to even associate skin color with talent: an actor is neither talented nor untalented because he is white, and the same corollary applies to actors of any skin color. In my opinion, an actor is talented if he can convey emotion through his character and capture his audience with such depth that viewers forget they’re watching a movie and feel like they themselves are part of the story. Whether an actor is capable of doing that or not has nothing to do with their skin color. Yes, the list of nominees contains all white actors, but how does that reflect anything about their quality of acting, and how is this a social justice issue that activists deem necessary to respond to?

A notion called unconscious racism has arisen in response to the Oscars issue and other areas of social justice activism. The idea is that a person can be racist based on subconscious perceptions of race that he is not even aware of. Applying this notion to the Oscar nominees, some people believe that Academy voters — and more generally, people — unconsciously associate good acting with white skin. I don’t associate good acting with being white, because being a good actor doesn’t mean being white, or black, or Asian, or any ethnicity. Period. It means having talent and evoking an emotional response in your viewers. Labeling the Oscar nominations racist because they failed to deem an actor of color worthy of the nomination for one of the most prestigious and competitive awards in acting is contrived. Hundreds of quality actors and actresses — including white ones — don’t receive nominations, and thousands more don’t even receive the celebrity, fame, and wealth associated with Hollywood. The actors that did receive nominations portrayed enough talent to do so, and this talent has nothing to do with skin color.

The #OscarsSoWhite issue is really just a subset of a larger mindset in America, one in which people are quick to adhere to media headlines portraying race issues and heightening racial tension. I am genuine and serious in my belief of the principles of equality and equal opportunity, regardless of race, sex, or color. However, sensationalizing ideas like #OscarsSoWhite and creating racial tension over things that aren’t related to race divide and define people by their skin color, which goes against the very principles of equality social justice critics seek to uphold.